Focus Ireland Warns New Central Bank Code of Conduct Could Lead to Homeless Crisis

The housing and homeless charity, Focus Ireland has warned that the new Central Bank Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears could lead to a deepening homeless crisis in Dublin if owner-occupiers are evicted from family homes.

"Homeowners who fall behind with mortgage repayments this month could find themselves before the courts by Christmas and ultimately facing repossession under the new Code"

Focus Ireland is the lead organisation for Dublin City Council in supporting families who are homeless and highlighted that the number of families becoming homeless in Dublin has been monitored with DCC over recent months. They are mostly losing their accommodation in the private rented sector and for many it is their first time ever to be homeless.

Focus Ireland said there has been an increase from 8 to approximately 16 families a month becoming homeless in Dublin during this time.  

Focus Ireland Director of Services & Housing Catherine Maher said: “We are already working hard with DCC to support the increased number of families becoming homeless in Dublin.  These families are largely losing accommodation in the private rented sector and are not owner occupiers.  The new Code of Conduct for banks is now expected to lead to an increase in the repossession of the family home and Focus Ireland is warning that homeless services will not be able to cope with this as services in Dublin are already stretched to nearly breaking point.”

Focus Ireland said it is calling for an urgent meeting with the Minister for Finance to express its concerns on impact of the new code.  The charity is calling for action to ensure that there are key prevention measures and supports in place to ensure people do not become homeless if there are increased repossessions for owner occupiers.

Catherine Maher said: “It is vital there are as few repossessions as possible to protect people in the family home.  If a home is to be repossessed there has to be supports in place to ensure the family or householder does not become homeless and is supported to secure alternative accommodation before any home is repossessed. Focus Ireland has the experience and knowledge to prevent households from becoming homeless if they have the opportunity to work with these families before their homes are repossessed.  But the main thing is to restrict repossessions in the first place.”

She added: “People are angry that In the very week there are sickening revelations of how the bosses at Anglo Irish sold the country down the river for the bank’s own gain, we are once again seeing policy that suggests the government is doing more to protect the banks’ interests than the ordinary person’s home.”

Focus Ireland warned that homeowners who fall behind with mortgage repayments this month could find themselves before the courts by Christmas and ultimately facing repossession under the new Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears. Figures issued by the Central Bank last week show one in every eight primary residences in Ireland is in mortgage arrears.

The figures show that the mortgage arrears crisis is deepening, with over 3,000 more mortgage holders falling into arrears since December. The report shows that 95,554 or 12.3 per cent of primary residences in the country, are in arrears over 90 days, up from 92,349 in December. Added to that, the number of homes in arrears over 180 days increased by 4.8 per cent, while the number of mortgages in arrears over two years has grown by 12 per cent.

Focus Ireland also said it is highly worried that the new code could give banks the right to contact distressed home owners as often as they like in relation to their arrears.  The Central Bank has already been forced by the media to admit that the clarity in relation to what is phrased as  “proportionate” contact” in the new code is a “concern”.  The old code said banks could only make three unsolicited contacts with someone in arrears each month.

Focus Ireland called for anyone who is worried about losing their home or their current housing situation should contact the charity’s advice and information services based at its Coffee Shop in Eustace St. in Temple Bar in Dublin at  01 67 12 555 .

There are in the region of 5,000 people who are homeless in Ireland. A small number sleep rough with the majority staying in emergency homeless accommodation such as hostels.  Focus Ireland supported over 8,000 people last year who were either homeless or at risk of losing their homes.