The Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation has said a deal, done with AIB to help owners in mortgage arrears stay in their homes, is a phenomenal opportunity for people to get back on their feet.

The new initiative has been set up to help keep people who have fallen into arrears on their mortgage - and who qualify for social housing - in their own homes.

AIB, the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation and iCare Housing have agreed a deal which sees the bank buy out hundreds of homes from distressed mortgage holders. These homes are then rented back to them.

David Hall, chief executive of the IMHO and iCare, said it was a sensible, practical solution to the current housing crisis.

He said that some people are under such immense pressure with mortgage arrears that they have not been able to work. This will change their lives, he added.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Hall said that mortgage holders (who are in trouble) with AIB, Haven and EBS should contact iCare Housing organisation to see if they qualify for the scheme.

"For AIB, EBS and Haven customers an option now exists, for those who qualify for mortgage to rent, to remain in their homes, have their residual mortgage debt written off and have the option to buy their home back in the future for a price that is discounted from today's market value," Mr Hall added.

Under the scheme AIB will give iCare €100 million to buy properties, which will be rented back to families on a long term (28-30 year) lease.

There are some criteria for qualification, including a cap on property value and income levels.

Renters, whose circumstances change, will have the opportunity to buy the houses back, at the same price iCare pays for it, if they wish.

Mr Hall pointed out that these houses are not currently available for social housing, so it will not take homes from those already on social housing lists.

He said he was hopeful the scheme could be extended to other lenders.

Customers of AIB, Haven and EBS who complete the "mortgage to rent" process will continue to live in their home as long-term tenants of iCare Housing - a not-for profit approved housing body.

Under the terms of the initiative, they can buy back their home at the discounted price paid by iCare Housing if their circumstances improve.

iCare will be funded via the Housing Agency, rent roll from the local authority, and commercial lending. 

It will also be supported with commercial funding from AIB Corporate Banking.