Belfast Telegraph

The pain behind repossession

Editor's Viewpoint

Housing is one of the most important factors in life, and people need to feel the comfort and security of having a roof over their heads. There is, therefore, a considerable degree of personal distress in our story about the sharp rise in repossessions in Northern Ireland during recent times.

The latest figures available show that re-possessions have increased from 139 in 2007 to 1,522 last year, which marks a considerable rise in six years.

The personal trauma involved in such a difficult situation is widespread, ranging from marriage break-ups to depression, illness and a chronic feeling of strain. People who are suddenly forced to live in straitened circumstances find it very difficult to cope, particularly older folk.

Outsiders might wonder why people find themselves in such a desperate situation, but the causes are complex. It is clear, however, that many of these homeowners - soon to be former homeowners - are not the authors of their own misfortune.

They have not spent carelessly on other things, or decided suddenly to have expensive and exotic holidays.

Their misfortune is partly caused by changes in the market, as well as complex financial developments which are well over the heads of ordinary people.

Significantly, there appears to be a lower rate of repossessions in the Irish Republic. Is this because the banks and financial institutions across the border are operating in a way that is more beneficial to the householder? If so, what can the banks and financiers do better up here to help people?

Is it possible that the Executive could do more to help those unfortunates who are trapped in the repossession nightmare?

There are tentative but hopeful signs that the housing market may be improving slightly in Northern Ireland, and that some of the repossession trauma may be eased.

However, it is a salutary story for those people who are secure in their homes and property and are in little danger of having to leave their centre of identity and security.

Some of the stories of those whose houses have been repossessed are heart-rending, and those involved deserve the utmost sympathy and understanding.

Life is difficult enough for most people, but to lose one's home through no fault of one's own is literally indescribable.

Belfast Telegraph


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