Banks are seizing more than three homes every day across Ireland, latest figures reveal.
Towards the end of last year 340 houses were repossessed by lenders after owners were forced by the courts to hand back the keys or they simply gave up the fight to keep a roof over their heads.
The Central Bank report showed the rate of repossessions had only narrowly reduced since the first three months of the year when it was four a day.
The regulator said that in the last three months of the year 162 principal family homes were taken by lenders using court orders and another 178 were given up voluntarily or abandoned.
The figures only reflect the number of times a bank has moved on someone’s main home, with other records showing 199 houses or apartments classed as investments or buy-to-lets were taken over by lenders in the same period.
The regulator also said 117,052 mortgages were in arrears at the end of last year, including 88,292 properties which were people’s main homes and 28,760 investments which had run into debt.
The banks are owed a total of 23.7 billion euro on those houses and apartments.
Central Bank data showed the country’s banks have repossessed 5,396 homes and apartments over a six-year period from the year before they were bailed out in 2010 until late last year.
Some 3,554 of those properties were family homes and the other 1,842 were buy-to-lets.
The figures also suggest repossessions may have peaked with the highest amounts occurring in late 2014 and again mid to late 2015.
One of the country’s leading homelessness campaigners, the Peter McVerry Trust, said the crisis is not being dealt with.
“Given the huge number of people in homelessness, we cannot allow people in mortgage arrears to become the next wave to end up relying on emergency homeless services,” the charity’s chief executive Pat Doyle said.
“People that are forced by financial institutions to leave these properties are trying to find accommodation in the midst of an acute housing shortage, and we know that some people are already entering homelessness.”
The trust said it has seen an increase in court proceedings being launched against home owners since October 2014 and that it expects to see repossessions increase this year and next.
Mr Doyle called for an expanded mortgage-to-rent scheme which allows debtors to remain in their homes after giving it back to a bank which in turn sells it to a housing association which leases it back to the original buyer.
“It is now extremely urgent that a wide-ranging and radical response to the housing and homeless crisis is forthcoming,” he said.
“That response needs to factor in the 117,000 mortgages in arrears across Ireland at the end of December, it needs to factor in the fact that one in five buy-to-let mortgages is in arrears.”
Other figures from the Central Bank report showed 36,351 family households are more than two years behind in their mortgage repayments.
The statistics showed that makes up 41% of all accounts in arrears.
On the buy-to-let front there were 15,064 accounts in arrears for more than two years.
Elsewhere, the regulator revealed that at the end of last year “non-bank entities” held 47,402 principal homes and investment properties.
Of those, 19,701 are in arrears of more than 90 days and 13,193 of those are two years behind in repayments.