NI home repossessions at critical level

NI home repossessions at critical level

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

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."

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