McGrath rules out introducing mortgage interest relief
The Minister for Finance has ruled out introducing mortgage interest relief for owner-occupiers, warning that such a move could cost €655m a year.
Speaking in the Dáil, Michael McGrath acknowledged that many mortgage holders were under significant pressure, as some lenders are charging up to 7% interest on home loan repayments.
Sinn Féin urged the Government to tackle “inhuman” hikes which it says are forcing people to choose between paying the mortgage or medical bills.
The party’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that 200,000 homeowners with tracker mortgages face a “significant and immediate” impact to the latest hike.
Introducing a Private Member’s Bill, he warned of “acute financial pressure” for families who are faced with “another blow, another squeeze on their disposable income”.
While he rejected the motion, Mr McGrath appealed to all lenders to treat customers fairly and sympathetically and to work with them to prevent arrears, which are at their lowest level since 2010.
He said that Sinn Féin has offered no costing for their proposal and noted that there are 716,000 mortgages for primary homes in the State, 35% of whom are on a tracker rate, with 26% on a variable rate.
If each of them was given €1,500 relief, it would cost €655m a year, he said, adding that Sinn Féin would deny that this is what they are proposing.
Mr Doherty insisted that his bill would introduce “timely, targeted and temporary interest relief”.
His party colleague Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said that the proposals are “affordable, sensible and absolutely necessary”.
While Sorca Clarke said her constituency offices have experienced “a dramatic increase” in the number of people with “those dreaded letters”.
Minister McGrath rejected the motion, insisting that any response “cannot be considered in isolation” to cost-of-living supports, which are due to expire this month.
“There is no doubt whatsoever” that mortgage holders will come under increasing pressure, Mr McGrath accepted.
But with “major taxation and expenditure issues” due to expire in the coming weeks, he said that the Government cannot “make it up as we go along”.
Earlier, the Taoiseach said that monetary policy is a matter for Central Banks.
Ruling out mortgage interest relief, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that rates will have to rise at a steady pace to bring down inflation, but expressed his hope that they are nearing their peak.
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Mr Varadkar said that future relief has not been ruled out, adding that it would be discussed at the European Council Meeting this week.