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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Committee recommends action on repossession "task force"

The Department for Social Development (DSD) has indicated in the Housing Strategy Action Plan a need to establish a working group to identify ways of lessening the impact of repossession in Northern Ireland.  Following a recent consultation event the Committee for Social Development has made recommendations to the DSD to assist in the formulation of this working group.

These recommendations are based on stakeholder contributions at the event.  They suggest that the working group be established over the summer of 2013 and a timeframe for the group to publish its proposals.

Housing Rights Service fully supports the recommendations.  Our Director, Janet Hunter, commented: “As providers of the Mortgage Debt Advice Service our experience advising and representing people at risk of repossession makes us all too aware of the intense pressure on these people and families.  We hope that DSD takes heed of the Committee’s request to set up the working group sooner rather than later”.

Format and timeframe for group

  • The working group should be established over the summer of 2013.
  • The group should produce recommendations within 6 months of its first meeting.
  • The group’s membership should be inclusive and based on the necessary expertise.
  • DSD should consider establishing relevant subgroups to address a range of issues concurrently
  • The group should have an independent Chair

Issues for consideration

  • Liaise with stakeholders to identify the true extent of the problem, analyse the difficulties within the NI housing market and the wider economy and consider the projected extent of the problem in the long term.   
  • Focus on a range of realistic, workable solutions that are flexible enough to deliver on a case by case basis with minimal bureaucracy.

Consider value of examples from other jurisdictions

At the event speakers from other jurisdictions provided comment on some practical measures taken to assist homeowners threatened with repossession.  The Committee has recommended that the working group look at the value of the following measures:

  • NI Mortgage Rescue Scheme and what role institutional investment would play in funding this scheme
  • debt write-down
  • preventing repossession loans to provide breathing space for struggling homeowners
  • lender forbearance.

A tailored approach

The Committee has recommended that while lessons should be learned from other jurisdictions a local solution must be tailored to address NI specific issues.  The group may also consider whether there is a need for legislation to underpin its proposals and the level of government resources which will be required to deliver the group’s recommendations

The recommendations also state that particular consideration should be given to how to deal with issues associated with interest-only mortgages and repossession of tenanted properties.

Further reading

The following articles and resources may be of interest

Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Northern Ireland Assembly Commission


Tagged In

Repossession, Affordability, NI Assembly

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This article was written on 24 July 2013. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.