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408 enrolled to date in revamped mortgage relief program

Represents 23% of eligible borrowers, who number 1,744
  • Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis (left) speaks with Central and South Abaco MP Edison Key following the morning session of the House of Assembly yesterday. Photo: Torrell Glinton

XIAN SMITH
Guardian Business Reporter
xian@nasguard.com

Published: Feb 16, 2017

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The Christie administration’s revamped mortgage relief program has enrolled 408 out of 1,744 eligible borrowers as of January 2017, as the country’s mortgage delinquencies sit above $600 million.

Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis revealed yesterday in Parliament that 1,744 borrowers were deemed eligible for the program. And of the 1,400 that were contacted, only 408 borrowers, 23 percent of those eligible, have completed all of the requirements for enrollment in the program to date, he said.

In a bid to defend the government’s new mortgage relief program, Halkitis attributed its necessity to the country’s lack of capital creation and high levels of non-performing loans that continue to plague the banking sector since the 2008 global financial crisis.

But financial statistics cited by the minister prove that the country still has a vast landscape of underperforming home loans.

For instance, Halkitis noted that delinquent mortgages account for the majority of total arrears.

“While there has been sustained improvement in loan delinquencies since 2015,

total arrears at $1.139 billion remain an elevated 19.1 percent of total loans, and with mortgages accounting for the bulk at nearly 55 percent,” he said.

“This has been a concern for the government, as persons in many instances due to circumstances beyond their control, were being faced with the prospect of losing their homes.

“This remains the driving rationale behind the government’s launch of the revamped mortgage relief plan.”

He mentioned that The Central Bank of The Bahamas’ quarterly bank lending report for March 2016 saw a marginal increase in new mortgage applications, with 451 in comparison to 413 during the prior quarter.

Halkitis pointed out that 66 percent of the mortgages were to acquire existing dwellings and were not for new construction.

New construction start-ups, which he said “is clearly an engine of economic growth”, slumped by nearly 69 percent from 2009 to 2012.

“The lack of activity has been a drag on the real economy, as the value of construction starts has also dropped precipitously from $306 million in 2009 to $95 million in 2012,” he said.

“This lack of capital creation has placed an obvious drag on the Bahamian economy.”

 


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