Wednesday 23 January 2019

Nowhere to turn for evicted mum

Anna Flynn, Meadowgate, Gorey, who was served with a civil bill for the possession of her home, is pictured with her daughter, Isobel Cummins, 12.
Anna Flynn, Meadowgate, Gorey, who was served with a civil bill for the possession of her home, is pictured with her daughter, Isobel Cummins, 12.

By Fintan Lambe

A GOREY mother, who is faced with eviction and homelessness on July 31, has appealed to the country's politicians to step in and take practical action to prevent her and 37,500 distressed borrowers like her, from being put out of their homes.

Anna Flynn, 44, whose two youngest children live with her in the three-bed semi-detached house she bought in Meadowgate during the boom, fell behind on her mortgage payments in recent years, after she was forced to quit work due to serious illness.

Last week, she received an eviction notice from the mortgage company, which is prepared to sell her home for as little as €80,000, despite her offering to pay €435 per month, or around €170,000 over the next 27 years.

Originally from Dublin, Anna lived in Bray for 15 years before she purchased the house in 2007 for €350,000. 'I moved to Gorey eight years ago from Bray after my divorce,' she said. 'I couldn't afford to buy in Bray, so I moved to Gorey, and I put €110,000 down on the house.'

Anna worked as an assistant financial controller, and could afford the €1,400 a month repayments on the €240,000 mortgage which was taken out with Irish Nationwide. The mortgage later went to IBRC and then her mortgage was bought by investment company Mars Capital Ireland Limited.

Six years ago, Anna first got ill, was hospitalised, and had to leave her job. She returned to work in 2011, but could only find part-time employment. In 2013, she became extremely ill, and had her bowel removed, and had complications from surgery. She was out of work for ten months without sick pay.

She went back to work for three months, but was so ill, under medical advice, she left.

'All the time I was trying to negotiate with the bank, (IBRC)' she said. 'It kept getting kicked down the line for a long time. I would pay as much as I could, and there was constant to-ing and fro-ing, but no-one would make a decision.'

Anna was on interest-only payments for a while - at €770 per month, but it got that she couldn't afford those. When Mars Capital came on the scene, the pressure really came on. Anna had been working with MABS, and now went to New Beginnings which told the lender she could pay a certain amount if they parked €170,000 of the debt.

The lender told Anna her mortgage isn't sustainable, despite her offering €435 a month. Once she was told this, she was advised to stop making payments as it was 'throwing good money after bad.'

New Beginnings told her that her house will most likely be sold off for 75 per cent of its market value, which works out at around €80,000, far less than she has offered.

Anna's two adult children live and work in Dublin, and she has a 12 year-old daughter and six-year old son in Gorey. Her support network, her friends and family live locally, while others are a short distance away in Dublin. She attends St Vincent's for medical appointments. Very often she can't drive due to the strong medication she's on.

She approached Wexford County Council to see if any solution could be found to her pending homelessness. 'They said there's no social housing available and there's nothing they can do for me,' she said.

She suggested that the Council buy the house and she pay rent but they said the funds aren't there for that, and if she wanted to be housed, she would have to move to Enniscorthy or New Ross, away from her support network. 'I was told "if you want to live in Gorey, you will have to pitch a tent,"' she stated.

'I've paid tax, stamp duty, everything, all my life, apart from when I was sick, and nobody can help me,' she added.

She approached her local Councillors, and Cllr Mary Farrell and Cllr Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin responded. She said that Cllr Ó Súilleabháin in particular has been of great support.

'This is a concrete example that highlights how villainous the banks are - even worse than the infamous landlords in this area over a century ago,' said Sinn Féin Cllr Ó Súilleabháin. 'Government policy backs the banks over citizens.' He said his party believes there should be an independent body that can force banks into agreeing a fair arrangement with those in mortgage distress. He said Council policy needs to change to facilitate people like Anna.

Anna wasn't aware of the court date on January 26 last, when the court order for her eviction was made.

'If I'm willing to pay the most I can pay, I don't understand why they are going to evict me,' she said. 'It just doesn't make sense. Even if the bank was to say we'll review it in a year, it would be something.'

Anna now has to file for bankruptcy so the total debt hanging over her doesn't follow her for the rest of her life. Due to arrears and interest, she now owes more than the original mortgage - €290,000. The bankruptcy process has so far cost her €2,000.

'Basically I'm out on the street,' she said. 'The Council's advice is to hand them back the keys and move to Enniscorthy or New Ross.'

'The whole system is flawed,' she said. 'If I rent private accommodation, I have to get rent allowance, but with the threshold of €575, I would have to get the landlord to lie about the rent and make up the difference. Everybody is doing it.'

She pointed out that hundreds of millions are to be invested in social housing, and she was told by the Council staff that the money is for homelessness. 'I said I will be homeless, and I was told "you're not homeless yet,"' she said.

'So many people are in the same position as me - 37,500 people. Are they going to evict 37,500 people?' she asked. 'I'm not looking for anything for nothing. I'm not looking to be a drain on the State. The only people that can help are the politicians, if they could advocate on my behalf.'

'I voted Fine Gael, and they promised they would sort out this situation. This is their mandate, part of their programme for government. Four years later, they haven't done anything,' said Anna. 'Even if I could live here and rent off the bank, I would do that.'

'I only want them to do a deal with me,' she continued. 'It's my children's home and it's my community. I just want stability for my kids.'

'I'm prepared to pay a certain amount to stay in the property so I don't become someone else the government has to subsidise,' she said. 'It really doesn't make sense to put people out of their homes.'

'I've always worked hard for what I had,' she added. 'I've always had faith in the system. I felt if you worked hard and paid your taxes, it was done for a reason, and if you did need help, the system was there to support you.'

'I feel now that every time I've looked for help, it's not there,' she concluded. 'Every door I've gone to has been closed. No-one is prepared to help me. Maybe if more people like me are heard, something will be done. Maybe some TD will say "it's not fair", and it will prompt them to do something, because it's not just me.'

Wexford People

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