Mortgage crisis

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The Irish squatters taking on empty homes and a bankrupt system. As Ireland reels from yet another austere budget and a year of economic pain, a group of young activists have begun to take over empty properties spawned by the boomand abandoned by banks and property developers across the country.

The Irish squatters taking on empty homes and a bankrupt system

The squatters, linked to Ireland's Occupy movement, say they plan a mass occupation of houses and flats owned by the Irish government's "bad bank", National Asset Management Agency (Nama), which took over thousands of properties that speculators handed back after the crash. Led by a 27-year-old Irish-language speaker and graduate from Galway, the group has already squatted a house on Dublin's northside that was worth €550,000 in the boom but is now put at under €200,000. Since the property has been empty for several years, Liam Mac an Bháird and his friends occupied it in the autumn to highlight homelessness, as well as the way builders and banks were bailed out by the taxpayer. Authorities refused to publish house price warnings in 2004. This post was written by Frank Barry Anthony Murphy, now at the Dallas Fed, is a renowned Irish econometrician with a strong research interest in housing markets.

Authorities refused to publish house price warnings in 2004

Back in 2004 he was commissioned by the National Competitiveness Council to study the competitiveness implications of the housing boom. The first paragraph of his report read: “Ireland’s booming housing market has attracted and continues to attract a considerable amount of attention, both domestically and internationally. Irish house prices are extremely high by historic and international standards, both in absolute terms and relative to incomes. The strength and duration of the house price boom is unique. Ireland's house prices at lowest levels since 2000. Houses in Dublin, where prices have crashed in the past five years.

Ireland's house prices at lowest levels since 2000

Photograph: Barry Mason/Alamy Property prices in Ireland are in freefall, according to housing analysts, whose latest figures show that prices in Dublin have collapsed by 65% in five years and by 60% across the country. Irish banks face mortgage strikes. It's been a tough time to be Irish.

Irish banks face mortgage strikes

The boom years are a distant memory and now there's just austerity and a long haul back to recovery for a nation crippled by the reckless lending of its banks. But, a year after the country was forced to call in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), there is a sign that the people are fighting back and targeting the hated lenders with the "nuclear option" of a mortgage strike. Central Bank of Ireland - Central Bank Publishes New Research on Mortgage Arrears and Negative Equity. The Central Bank of Ireland today publishes new economic research on “The Distribution of Property Level Mortgage Arrears”.

Central Bank of Ireland - Central Bank Publishes New Research on Mortgage Arrears and Negative Equity

The research analyses the position of mortgaged households in the areas of arrears and negative equity. London property bubble is good news for NAMA. As shares across the globe tumble investors are fleeing to safe havens such as gold and the Swiss franc.

London property bubble is good news for NAMA

But they are also turning to trophy properties in London, which is why the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) may have been right earlier this year when it let slip it was launching a £16.5bn firesale of all its London properties which include the Citigroup tower in Canary Wharf, part of Leicester Square and the Louis Vuitton building in Bond Street. Critics believe the Irish bad bank would have been better holding on to London assets for the long term as yields on rent and prospects for capital growth are good, unlike Dublin, where offices lie empty throughout the city and chances of price increases are nil to slim over the next five years. But it turns out this week that NAMA is looking very prescient. Ireland’s speculative mania. His reasoning seems to be two-fold. 1. everyone is guilty (so, effectively, no one is) 2.

Ireland’s speculative mania

In the report (pp. 96) he makes the point that "There is regret, incredulity and guilt among them [the authorities, bankers] at the lending and funding policies pursued and the lack, at the time, of any recognition of what was happening. The credibility of their assertions is increased by the fact that a number of them personally suffered substantial losses in the crisis, easily avoidable if advance warnings had been available and recognised. " So, even if they are 'guilty' of anything, their stupidity should absolve them of blame..

Morgan Kelly warns of new middle-class debt default. An Irish academic best known for correctly calling the property crash four years ago has raised fresh concerns over a potential tsunami of debt default from "high rolling" professional classes.

Morgan Kelly warns of new middle-class debt default

Professor Morgan Kelly said there is about €11bn (£9.6bn) tied up in domestic loans that were handed out to lawyers, doctors and estate agents for homes they can no longer afford – loans the banks are not counting as problematic. His numbers refer to high-end properties in salubrious parts of Dublin and elsewhere which were snapped up at the peak by the well-heeled; they do not refer to the 165,000 buy-to-let mortgages, many of which are in danger of default. Irlande: le pays des maisons fantômes. Ireland Sets Up Its 'Bad Bank' Agency. Ireland's little secret - tracker mortgages. No soothing mood music from Bank of Ireland concerning mortgage holders who are in difficulty.

Ireland's little secret - tracker mortgages

Unlike Allied Irish Banks, which earlier this week said it would consider debt forgiveness for those who are struggling to keep up with payments, Bank of Ireland said at its annual results it will not pursue any such policy. But the good news is that it isn't whingeing about its loss-making tracker mortgages, unlike Permanent TSB which is about to start offering customers cash to get off these mortgages. (I've heard of one "friend of a friend of a friend" who has been offered €130,000 to get off a tracker worth the guts of a million).

Tracker mortgages are typically about 1% above the European Central Bank rate and are Ireland's dirty little secret – few own up to having them because their mortgages are rock bottom while everyone else on a variable rate is suffering. And that doesn't make nice dinner party conversation when poverty and debt is so in vogue. Bargain time as thousands of houses to be sold - National News, Frontpage. BARGAIN hunters will be tempted by thousands of cut-price houses and apartments over the coming months as NAMA offloads a huge stockpile of assets.

Bargain time as thousands of houses to be sold - National News, Frontpage

Finance Minister Michael Noonan yesterday ordered the agency to start selling both commercial and residential property -- worth up to €2.7bn -- as soon as possible. NAMA will sit down with Ireland 's leading banks within the coming fortnight to organise finance for purchasers. The aim is to kick-start the beleaguered property market and provide a "floor" for prices.

However it is a calculated risk, because NAMA could flood the market with cheap properties to the detriment of other sellers. Repossession: why we need a new bank directive. A new solution for mortgage arrears at under-pressure Irish banks? Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP Debt relief for ordinary homeowners rather than developers is centre stage in Ireland at the moment after new central bank figures show one in nine mortgages are either in arrears or restructured.We won't know until the end of the month what solutions the government will propose. Repossession's terrible toll. Repossessions affect homeowners from all walks of life. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty I met a lady last week, a lovely lady with two children, whose husband had taken his own life. They had borrowed on a family home, gone into arrears and remortgaged to clear the arrears on a previous mortgage. They were involved in the services industry. 16/10/2011: Negative Equity and Debt Restructuring.

This is unedited version of my article in Irish Mail on Sunday (October 16): This week, we finally learned the official figure for what it would cost to address one of the biggest problems facing this country. According to the Keane Report - or the Inter-Departmental Mortgage Arrears Working Group Report - writing off negative equity for all Irish mortgages will cost “in the region of €14 billion”. Doing the same just for mortgages taken out between 2006 and 2008 would require some €10 billion.