NI home repossessions at critical level

Published Tuesday, 19 February 2013
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The number of home repossessions in Northern Ireland is reaching critical levels, a leading housing charity has warned.

NI home repossessions at critical level
Homeowners are in negative equity because of the drop in the price of property. (© Pacemaker)

Thousands of homeowners have been plunged into negative equity after house prices inflated at the height of the property boom and then crashed during economic difficulties.

The Housing Rights Service said it is dealing with around 150 new cases of repossession each month and want the government to come to the aide of troubled proprietors.

The charity has seen a 35% rise of people coming to them for debt advice and in 2011/12 they dealt with almost 40,000 housing issues.

Director Janet Hunter said increasing numbers of families are losing their homes.

"We are struggling to cope with this and unfortunately we cannot see the situation improving for some considerable time."

Around 75% of people who go to the Housing Rights Service for help are in negative equity and the situation in Northern Ireland is worse than in the rest of the UK.

Last year England and Wales mortgage repossession action dropped to a five-year low, with house price recovery reported in some areas.

But in NI the house price fall resulted in the region becoming the worst in the UK for negative equity, with over a third of loans taken out since 2005 affected.

"We obviously had the years when the house prices were increasing rapidly," explained Ms Hunter.

"Then we have since 2007 where they have decreased so we have a lot of people here who are in negative equity and about three out of every four clients who approach us now are in that position and that's particularly bad here in Northern Ireland and why we think the situation is probably worse here."

The Housing Rights Service is calling for the Stormont Executive to step in and improve the situation.

She said: "In other parts [of the UK] there have been initiatives introduced by the government, for example, interest free loans which are repayable, which can help people through those difficult times, so we think the time is now right for action to be taken here locally."

© UTV News
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6 Comments
Dave in Belfast wrote (636 days ago):
John of course the banks were partly to blame (I personally think interest only mortgages, 125 % mortgages and 4+x salary mortgages should have been regulated out by the Labour government so I put more of the blame on them). Their bailout is history. The cheaper option is to let house prices complete their correction by letting natural supply (repossessions) reach the market. Keeping people afloat in houses they can't afford using taxpayers' money is not going allow this. Housing benefit should also be cut to allow the rental market to reach a natural price level.
John in Creggan wrote (640 days ago):
Dave Almost everyone pays tax regardless of income take VAT for instance. Who will house the evicted? Well if still in employment they may rent privately but apply for an executive home, if unemployed the executive will have to house them. The cheaper option for the taxpayer is to find a way to keep them in the family home. You never mentioned the role played by the banks in your post are they blamless?
Andy in Belfast wrote (640 days ago):
My house was valued at the height of the property boom at £235k, today it is worth £125k. I feel sorry for the house buyers who bought at that time but they were warned the bubble would burst but that didnt seem to affect the people queueing for days outside Estate Agents to buy apartments for more than they were worth.
Kathleen in Belfast wrote (640 days ago):
It is a disgrace that householders are left in gross negative equity while the banks have been bailed out left right and centre. These are people who have been trying to make a life and secure their future. Why should they be penalised for innumerable years to comes whilst the big bugs in banks etc. sail on. There most definately should be a scheme put in place to help those in this situation. This was a crisis that has affected many nations accross the world on mass. Let us show concern for our fellow humans and support this cause and I might add also those being penalised by the horrendous room tax impending. These are causes worth protesting about.
Dave in Belfast wrote (640 days ago):
Who pays for the help? The taxpayer. Why can't we just let people suffer the well known consequences of their mistakes, bad planning or plain bad luck? Nobody forced them to buy houses at obviously inflated values. Struggling now? Tough. Just wait until interest rates rise. I know this won't get posted. UTV are behaving like the Belfast Telegraph were from 2004 - 2010.
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