Dundrum: 30% upswing in people seeking help from Mabs

The co-ordinator of the main debt counselling service in the most middle-class district in Dublin has warned that the number of home-loan borrowers facing difficulties repaying their mortgages and personal loans has risen steeply since Christmas.

Gerry Dowling of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) office in Rathfarnham and Dundrum, whose hinterland has a population of 160,000, warned that the numbers seeking help in recent weeks had risen 30%. All groups, suffering from a loss of household income, were reporting problems meeting mortgage and so-called lifestyle-debt payments on credit cards and car loans.

But Dowling said the government would find no easy solution to the "conundrum" of middle-class mortgage debt because it would have to save the taxpayer from the costs if it were to write off even a small part of the €150bn mortgage loans on the Dublin banks' balance sheets.

Minister for communications Eamon Ryan, a TD representing Dublin South, last week said the coalition government was seeking new initiatives to help stressed mortgage borrowers.

On Friday, the Financial Regulator said that all banks, not just the banks that received government cash, would have to allow 12 months before going to the courts to repossess homes of borrowers in arrears.

"We had 25 new cases on top of the existing ongoing case load of over 300 in the past month," said Dowling.

"But what we are seeing is only the tip of the debt iceberg," he said.

The Rathfarnham office is one of 64 Mabs offices in the state.

"But the danger is that if you are not paying then inter-generational mortgages are looming. The mortgage that should be paid off in 20 years becomes a 40-year debt and then 60 years," he said.

"People have a terrible sense of hopelessness. There is need for people to see that they can eventually own their houses," said Dowling.