Polish Ruling Party Sees No Extra Cost From Broader Mortgage Aid

Poland’s ruling party said its proposal to broaden a relief program for Swiss franc mortgage holders is unlikely to raise costs for local banks beyond an initial estimate of at least 9 billion zloty ($2.4 billion).

The Civic Platform wants to raise limits on the apartment size eligible for aid to 100 square meters (1,100 square feet) from an initially planned 75 and to 150 square meters from 100 for houses, lawmaker Krystyna Skowronska told a parliamentary commission working on the bill. It also wants to exclude families with at least two children from all size limits, she said in Warsaw.

“The changes that we are proposing shouldn’t raise costs for banks,” Skowronska, who’s also the head of a public finance commission that’s discussing the bill, told reporters in parliament on Tuesday. “But we’re still waiting for the Polish Banking Association to present its estimates.”

Lagging behind in opinion polls before a general election due Oct. 25, the Civic Platform is introducing legislation that would force banks to share the costs of converting Swiss franc home loans into zloty. The program will run through 2020, initially applying to mortgage holders whose loans exceed the value of their property by 20 percent.

The government is under growing pressure to help its middle-class voters struggling with rising payments after a surge in the Swiss currency. The banking industry, where foreign owners control 62 percent of assets, is becoming a target in the election campaign, with the leading opposition party seeking to impose more taxes amid calls for increasing domestic ownership of lenders.

‘Severe Consequences’

The Civic Platform’s “plan as it stands could have severe consequences for the industry and the economy as a whole,” Jerzy Banka, deputy head of the Polish Banking Association, said in parliament.

Law & Justice, the opposition party that’s leading in opinion polls, wants the relief program to apply to practically all franc mortgage holders, which would raise its cost to between 12 billion zloty and 15 billion zloty, its lawmaker Pawel Szalamacha told the parliamentary committee. That proposal was rejected by the committee working on the draft bill.

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