Greece urged to give distressed borrowers "last chance"

Greece urged to give distressed borrowers last
Panagiotis Lafazanis, former Greek energy minister stands on a ladder as a police vehicle blocks the entrance outside a notary-public's office in Athens on Wednesday, March. 28, 2018. A few dozen people took part in the protest, as Greek police guard the building. Protesters were opposing the auction of foreclosed properties, a key demand of Greece's bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s largest commerce and legal associations have urged the government to urgently reform laws protecting distressed mortgage holders, warning that tens of thousands of struggling families could lose their homes this year.

In a joint proposal Wednesday, they recommended that the government give mortgage holders the right to match the auction price of their foreclosed property before the sale is approved.

Greece’s bailout creditors are pressing the country to speed up property auctions and ease pressure on banks as the rate of non-performing loans nears 50 percent. Starting in May, property auctions will also be launched to recover tax arrears.

In central Athens, demonstrators staged weekly anti-auction protests, led by a former government minister who used a ladder to climb up a riot police bus used as a cordon.