94,000 homes in mortgage arrears
Some 94,488 households were in mortgage arrears of more than 90 days at the end of last year, up 3,130 in three months, official figures have revealed.
The Central Bank said it was the slowest quarter-on-quarter increase since statistics were first collected in September 2009. The report said, however, that there were 23,523 households in arrears for about two years.
The official statistics also revealed the extent of difficulties in the rental sector with 28,421 buy-to-let mortgage accounts behind in repayments for more than 90 days.
The residential mortgage arrears and repossessions report showed that arrears totalling almost three billion euro are outstanding across personal and buy-to-let mortgage accounts.
The report found that 143,851 private households were in some form of arrears with the balance worth 25 billion euro. Some 1.8 billion euro is outstanding in arrears on these accounts.
The landlord and investment side of the property market has 37,955 mortgages with a balance of 11 billion euro behind in repayments. The money owed in arrears alone in the buy-to-let sector stood at 1.2 billion euro.
Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty described the arrears situation as "an absolute crisis".
He said the Government needed to take decisive action and establish an independent agency to deal with customers in distress. He said the power should be taken away from banks on deciding whether a customer is eligible for a mortgage restructuring.
"A write down of mortgages has to be a central part of any solution, and it has to be done on a case-by-case basis," Mr Doherty said. He said banks would just "string customers along".
Fianna Fail's Michael McGrath said while measures such as interest-only payments and lengthening mortgage terms would help some homeowners, others would need a complete mortgage restructuring. "It's serious, it's complex, but it can be resolved if the will is there," he said.