articles | 26 July 2019

State and banks sign MoU for 'Estia' housing scheme

The government has signed a memorandum of understanding with local financial institutions for the implementation of the Estia scheme, which comes into effect in September 2019, designed to bailout distressed homeowners holding toxic mortgages.

During the signing ceremony on Friday, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades stated that an effective legislative framework is the backbone on which the Estia scheme has been designed and warned that “any change to it should be well thought through and only upon consent from the Central Bank and the ECB”.

Georgiades stated that the government will not consent to any changes which may lead the country down a dangerous path, referring to a set of counter-amendments voted in by legislators, but were referred back to the House by President Nicos Anastasiades, in effect rejecting their amendments.

The minister added that referring changes to the law for a final ruling by the Supreme Court does not offer a way out.

He pointed out that "amendments that weaken and complicate the legislative framework for divestments are not in the best interest of vulnerable borrowers, but only benefit strategic defaulters."

The Finance Minister said he personally undertook the responsibility on behalf of the government for the implementation of the scheme, during the initial months, as he has already declared his intention to step down before the end of the year.

Also present at the MoU signing ceremony was Labour Minister Zeta Emiliandi who expressed her department’s readiness to do its part for the implementation of Estia.

"In cooperation with the finance ministry and the banks' association, the required work is completed so that we can manage the whole project," he said.

Emilianidou added that the ministry has already set up the control teams which will be reviewing the applications to be submitted as of September while the necessary software system has been set up.

The MoU was signed by the state and representatives of banking and other institutions that have bought loan portfolios with a toxic mortgage. Institutions participating in the scheme are Bank of Cyprus, Hellenic Bank, AstroBank, Eurobank, National Bank of Greece, the Cyprus Asset Management Company (legacy Cooperative Central Bank), Alpha Bank, the state-owned Cyprus Land Development Corporation and Gordian Holdings.

Hellenic Bank’s CEO Ioannis Matsis said that banks have already sent out notifications to borrowers who are eligible to participate in the scheme.

Bank of Cyprus’ new CEO Panikos Nikolaou said the bank welcomes the decision to implement the scheme and stressed that "it is a plan for a sustainable restructuring of loans and a step towards limiting the divestments of residencies belonging to families who are not able to service their loans".

Source: Financial Mirror

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