Saturday, January 2, 2010

Irish Mortgage Help Program Superior to Obama's

The Irish Times is reporting about the sharp rise in the number of people applying for mortgage assistance:
Under the scheme, households receive an average of €365 every month to help them cover part of their repayments. The mortgage interest relief supplement is designed to be a short-term payment to cover the interest portion of the home loan. Anyone seeking the payment is mean-tested and required to show they negotiated to reschedule mortgage payments with their lender.

Eligibility is assessed by community welfare officers, who are attached to the Health Service Executive. Groups such as Free Legal Aid say the rules are too strict and many households who desperately need the support are not able to get it.
14,740 people are getting the mortgage interest relief supplement. This compares with 8,000 recipients at the end of 2008, and 4,000 at the end of 2007. The Government is likely to have spent about €55 million on the supplement during 2009, or almost twice what it spent the previous year.

On the face of it, this model seems far superior to the one put in place by Obama. The Irish plan is cheaper and more effective in keeping people in their homes because it transfers money directly to the source and eliminates leakages to middlemen. In contrast, the Obama plan has been a disaster - it has done very little to prevent foreclosures, and enriched the very banks that created the crisis in the first place. Banks that were bailed out at taxpayer expense are now charging hefty fees for all kinds of reasons and still kicking people out of their homes. Here's an example from the NYT:
Lenders have accepted more than one million applications and cut three-month trial deals with 759,000 homeowners. But they have converted just 31,000 of those to the permanent new mortgages that are the plan’s goal.

In New York City, where 20,000 homeowners faced foreclosure this year, a recent study by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods found that lenders have offered new or trial mortgages to just 3 percent of the homeowners who have sought help.
Obama's $75 billion program only rewards greedy banks and related special interests. The Irish model would have been simpler, cheaper, and more effective at keeping people in their homes.