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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Taskforce needed as repossession figures show 20% increase

On the day when the Northern Ireland Court Service released figures showing a 20% increase in the number of possession orders granted, local advice charity Housing Rights Service says it’s concerned about the delay in setting up a Government task force to tackle the problem.

Nicola McCrudden, HRS policy manager said: “Northern Ireland is still feeling the pain of debt and repossession. There are too many people living with the threat of homelessness because they can no longer afford their mortgage commitment. Because of this demand for advice on mortgage arrears and housing options remains at a very high level.”

Housing Rights Service operates a Mortgage Debt Advice Service; in 2012/13 it assisted 1,700 households. In the first 7 months of 2013/14 the service experienced similar levels of demand with some 950 households seeking advice.

Earlier this year, Housing Rights Service called on the NI Executive to set up a task force to examine the issue of repossessions and negative equity and identify ways to prevent its impact on local families. As part of the Housing Strategy Action Plan, published in early July, the Department for Social Development made a commitment to gather information, establish a working group and engage with stakeholders during 2013-2014.  Following engagement with interested groups, the Committee for Social Development then recommended that the Department establish the working group over the summer months as it felt this was a pressing issue.  However, the group has not yet been established.

Commenting on this Ms McCrudden said: “Ironically, despite high levels of repossession activity by lenders, there are very few support initiatives or debt relief options for households locally. This is not the case in other jurisdictions where Governments have introduced a variety of interventions to help struggling homeowners. We welcome the Minister’s commitment to setting up a task force but urge him to expedite this immediately to prevent people from ending up homeless.”

People experiencing difficulty with mortgage or secured loan debt can contact Housing Rights Service on 0300 3230310 or visit their website www.housingadviceNI.org.  Housing Rights Service also has advisers based at the High Court who can assist homeowners on the day of their possession hearings.

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This article was written on 18 November 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.