Minister for Finance Michael Noonan insists that “significant progress” has already been made on implementing the proposals outlined in the Keane Report on mortgage arrears, published last year.
Responding to questions on the matter from deputies Dominic Hannigan, Michael McGrath and Brendan Griffin, Minister Noonan said that the implement of the report was “ongoing” and said it still hoped to “significantly further advance” the work done so far in the early part of 2012.
In a statement on the progress of the implementing of the report from the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Mortgage Arrears, the Minister said: “A Steering Group, chaired by a Second Secretary General in my Department, has been established to oversee and drive the overall implementation of the report’s recommendations and to report regularly to the Economic Management Council and to Government on this.
“In addition to the Department of Finance, the Steering Group also consists of senior representation from the Departments of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Justice and Equality, Social Protection and Public Expenditure and Reform. The Central Bank is also represented on the Group.
“Separate working groups have also been established to progress the individual work streams of this broad work area and these groups report to the overall Steering Group. Additionally, a dedicated team is being established in my Department, with resources drawn from the relevant Government Departments, to progress the relevant initiatives. This will be supplemented, as necessary, with additional legal, financial and technical expertise as the implementation work proceeds. Significant progress has already been achieved across a number of the individual work areas.”
Some of the areas that have been touched on so far are the personal insolvency bill and the mortgage to rent scheme and the Minister expressed his opinion that these were positive moves.
“The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has now produced an initial General Scheme of a Personal Insolvency Bill which proposes a reformed framework to enable unsustainable debt, including the sensitive issue of secured debt, to be resolved in a non judicial way. This General Scheme will be furnished to the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality for consideration.
“Their views, along with the views of other interested parties, will be taken into account in the further development and finalisation of the Bill. The intention is to publish a final Bill by end April in line with the revised commitment in the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support.
“On “mortgage to rent”, the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government has advanced work with a bank and a social housing association to pilot a scheme, in order to test the practicalities and develop models associated with such a measure in advance of a wider roll out. I am informed that discussions are ongoing and that an initial launch of the project is anticipated soon.
“Regarding the engagement with the banks, the Central Bank, as the regulator of credit institutions, has now received mortgage arrears resolution strategies and implementation plans from all mortgage lenders and these are being considered by the Central Bank. I have been informed that the Central Bank intends to provide feedback to mortgage lenders in the coming weeks to give lenders an opportunity to revise and update their plans. The overall aim of this engagement is to ensure that there is a robust framework in place at all mortgage lenders to deliver appropriate solutions to their mortgage customers who are in arrears.
“Finally, work has commenced on the necessary steps to put in place the mortgage advisory function as recommended by the Inter-Departmental group.
“The Government has also indicated that, in its ongoing consideration of appropriate measures to address this problem, it will take careful note of the suggestions made by Deputies and also by outside groups. It is the Government’s intention to continue to work intensively on this matter and to significantly further advance all these work measures in the early part of 2012,” he said.