Stormont has been urged to introduce special measures to protect homeowners after new figures revealed the number of repossessions in Northern Ireland has jumped by almost half.
According to the latest statistics released from the Courts Service, there have been 558 mortgage cases from July to September this year — a massive 46% rise on the same period last year.
The court made 562 decisions about those cases — up 45% on last year. And 392 of these were possession orders, meaning the defendant lost their home. That equates to four people a day.
In the rest of the UK repossessions are at a five-year low.
The Housing Rights Service (HRS) advice charity has reported that demand for mortgage debt advice is at an all-time high. It said that, compared to last year, there has been a 50% increase in the numbers of struggling homeowners coming to their service.
Ursula Toner, legal advice services manager with Housing Rights Service, said: “We are not surprised that the number of local families facing the trauma of losing their homes has increased. A lot of our clients have experienced an income shock, such as a pay reduction or actual redundancy.”
Ms Toner said that Stormont must now introduce measures to help prevent homeowners from losing their properties.
“We need a range of tools to help tackle this problem. We recommend that Government establishes a Preventing Possession fund to finance initiatives for struggling homeowners. This fund could provide loans to help pay off arrears and support the introduction of a mortgage rescue scheme to allow homeowners to remain in their homes as tenants,” she said.
Meanwhile, home ownership levels have fallen sharply here since their peak five years ago.
Figures from the Home Owners Alliance, which promotes home ownership, show the percentage of people who own their homes here has fallen from 73.3% in 2007 to 67.5% in 2011, but remains above the UK average of 64.7%, which is the lowest level in 20 qqyears.
JULY TO SEPTEMBER 2012
558 mortgage cases
46% rise from last year.
562 decisions were made about those cases
45% rise from last year.
392 people lost their homes