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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Task force needed to tackle housing debt problem

With demand for mortgage debt advice at an all time high, Housing Rights Service says a task force is needed urgently to tackle the problem of repossessions.  This follows publication of the latest Court Service figures which show the number of actions for possession have increased 33% in the last five years.

Housing Rights Service provides a free Mortgage Debt Advice Service funded by the Department for Social Development. In twelve months the service has recorded a 30% increase in the number of families contacting it for assistance.

Nicola McCrudden Policy Manager with the charity said: “During the period January to March this year we dealt with 175 cases per month. Mortgage repossession activity has reached a critical point. Our advisers are struggling to cope and we cannot see the situation improving any time soon.”

Levels of repossession in Northern Ireland are much higher than in Britain or the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland also suffers from huge negative equity problems because of the house price crash. Housing Rights Service reports that around two thirds of its clients are in negative equity.  A further worry is that many of these borrowers have taken out interest only mortgages, without having fully considered how to repay the original loan.

Ms McCrudden said: “Behind these statistics are ordinary people trying to pay their mortgage and make ends meet. Many are living with the stress and fear of having their homes repossessed. Yet, despite the upward trend locally in repossession activity, there are fewer homeowner support initiatives here in comparison with other jurisdictions. This needs to be looked into urgently.”

Housing Rights Service has welcomed the Committee for Social Development’s plans to hold an event on repossessions and negative equity. The stakeholder event is to take place on 6th June and will examine the impact and identify next steps.  Guest speakers have been invited from England and the Republic of Ireland to share experiences on how the problem is being tackled elsewhere.

Committee for Social Development Chairperson Alex Maskey MLA said: “My Committee is obviously very concerned about the increasing levels of repossessions locally. Organisations such as Housing Rights Service have been instrumental in providing support and advice to those affected by housing debt, but it is clear that much more needs to be done at a government level to stem this spiralling crisis.

“The Committee’s upcoming event is an opportunity for key stakeholders and leading housing experts to work with Committee Members to identify what  approaches can be taken here to support those most in need.  The Committee will produce a report on the key findings and will continue to work with the Minister and his Department to ensure that an inclusive and sustainable strategy to tackle housing debt is developed.” 

People experiencing difficulty with mortgage or secured loan debt can contact Housing Rights Service on 0300 3230310 or log onto their website www.housingadviceNI.org.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For further information contact Claire at Housing Rights Service on 90 245640

Spokespersons will be available for comment

  1. In 2012/2013 Housing Rights Service dealt with over 37,000 housing issues and provided representation at nearly 1,000 court hearings.
  2. Housing Rights Service currently operates a Mortgage Debt Advice Service on behalf of the Department for Social Development.  The service helps those who have financial problems that threaten their ability to remain in their homes.
  3. The service dealt with 30% more queries between January and March 2013 compared with the same period last year.
  4. In August 2011 Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland announced continued funding that will allow the Mortgage Debt Advice Service to operate until 2015