Central Bank figures show mortgage rip-off continues

11 November 2020
  • Ireland has third highest mortgage rate in Euro area
  • Value of renegotiated mortgages up 56% in September on August
  • Extension of mortgage moratorium needed to support consumers through pandemic

Responding to the latest release of “Retail Interest Rates” by the Central Bank, Labour Finance Spokesperson Deputy Ged Nash said:

“Today’s figures show that the mortgage rate rip-off continues with the weighted average interest rate coming in at 2.78% in September compared to the Euro area average of 1.34%. In real terms, this means in Ireland we are paying up to €80,000 more – over €2600 per year – than the EU average for a typical €300,000 mortgage over 30 years.

“This is particularly punishing for younger workers and families who are often scraping by just to save for a deposit, only to be then crippled with high mortgage costs.

“What makes this even worse is that the Government’s own so-called affordable home loan scheme, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loans (RIHL) initiative which was set up in 2018, is now lending at significantly higher rates than the weighted market average (nearly 3% for a fixed mortgage for up to 30 years). Not surprisingly, approvals for the RIHL have plunged by 60% as would-be homeowners have decided to vote with their feet.

“Likewise, today’s Retail Interest Rates figures show that volume of new mortgage agreements has fallen by nearly 15% on last year, a worrying sign that obtaining a mortgage is becoming harder for first-time buyers. In short, at a time of a national housing crisis the options for first-time buyers are dwindling”.

Deputy Nash continued:
“In my experience of working with mortgage applicants from across the country, banks have been engaging in unfair and unjustified discrimination against mortgage applicants on the State wage subsidy scheme (i.e. EWSS). 345,500 are on the scheme as of the end of October.

“I have recently highlighted the fact that banks are now demanding that mortgage applicants supply details on whether their employer is availing of the EWSS, information that firms are not obliged to provide to employees.  

“This practice sets a very dangerous precedent, with banks now unilaterally extending their tests to the financial health of employers and not just employees. I have a real concern that the banks might use the publication of the list of firms availing of the TWSS and/or EWSS to introduce an unwritten de facto blanket ban on employees in those firms who apply to access a mortgage.

“I have written directly to bank CEOs to raise this issue and demand a halt to this practice and the Minister for Finance must now step up to the plate.”  

“In addition to lower rates and easier access to loans, the Government must do everything in its power to protect households throughout the pandemic.”

“Too many are now struggling with their mortgage repayments through no fault of their own, and I am particularly alarmed by the value and increase in the number of mortgage restructures in September. Given the imposition of Level 5 in late October through to early December, we will inevitably see this problem grow.

“I reiterate my call to the Minister to apply pressure to the banks to extend the formal mortgage moratorium to support households through the pandemic.

“We also need a radical rethink of how we support mortgage holders in this country as clearly the pillar Banks, including those which have a majority State-shareholding, have not been serving the interests of their customers before or during COVID-19. If we are to put people back to work and relaunch our economy then the forthcoming National Economic Plan must urgently tackle both the inaccessibility of and unaffordability of loans for personal customers and businesses alike.

“In that context, it is now time to re-examine and revisit the Relationship Framework Agreement between AIB & the Minister of Finance struck when the State bailed out the bank to ensure the taxpayer gets a better deal for our 71% majority shareholding.”

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