Foreclosure Ban Lifting Seen Set

samaras-venizelos-stournaras

ATHENS – Greece’s coalition government, unable to come to terms with its international lenders who wanted an outright lifting of a ban on foreclosures so that banks could begin confiscating homes starting Jan. 1, 2014, is reportedly ready to go ahead on its own with a modified plan that would offer protection to some 90 percent of households who can’t pay.

That was said to satisfy objections from the PASOK Socialists, who are partners in the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader who earlier had agreed for ending the moratorium with lesser protections but changed his mind after a wave of criticism from groups representing homeowners who can’t afford to pay because they’ve been subjected to big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions.

The new framework, set to go before Parliament on Dec. 21, was designed to protect nine out of 10 homeowners who can’t pay, said Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis. The government didn’t explain how, in effect, continuing the foreclosure ban for 90 percent of homeowners would help banks who had been pressing to seize homes when the moratorium ended on Dec. 31.

“We are trying to protect low- and middle- income groups by producing a socially just solution that will not protect the wealthy, big incomes or fleecers,” said Hatzidakis as the government said that some people who were able pay were dodging their mortgages to exploit the ban.

The criteria announced by Hatzidakis mean that homes with a taxable value of less than 200,000 euros will still be protected if owners do not keep up mortgage repayments but only as long as they fulfill certain other criteria as well.

A looming battle over the foreclosure ban had overshadowed the good news that the Eurozone finance chiefs had given the okay for a long-delayed one billion euro ($1.37 billion) installment that had been held up since July.

While that was going on, Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras said that after the release of the new loan that Greece has only 10.2 billion euros left to be disbursed from two bailouts of 240 billion euros that began in 2010, along with harsh austerity measures that remain in place. The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) said there’s a hole in the 2014 budget that needs to be filled but he said it would be done without more harsh conditions.