Home repossessions in some northern towns are running at more than three times the national average amid a regional gulf in fortunes.
Chester has the highest number of repossessed homes in England and Wales, with 53 in 10,000 houses taken over by banks, compared with the national average of 15 in 10,000, research by e.surv chartered surveyors found.
In the second half of last year, the worst-affected areas were the North East, parts of Yorkshire and towns in the M62 corridor.
In Darlington and Durham, the number of repossessions was 60% higher than the national average, with industrial Lancashire and Yorkshire towns such as Bradford and Doncaster also high on the list.
In contrast, Oxfordshire saw only 12 homes in 10,000 repossessed, 20% below the national average, and numbers were also low in the Cotswolds, the West Midlands, the West Country, and the southern coast of England.
Weak economic growth and austerity are blamed for the regional divide, with people in the north being more affected by Government cuts due to dependency on public sector employment, and a larger proportion of southerners working in the private sector.
Richard Sexton, business development director of e.surv, said: "Spending cuts, negative wage growth, falling house prices and public sector unemployment have hit the north much harder than the south. This has opened up a gaping geographical divide in repossession levels."
Clusters of affluent retired people have helped some areas in the north buck the trend, with only one home in 10,000 repossessed in Galashiels.
In Herefordshire, which has eight times the national average of wealthy pensioners, repossession levels were 20% lower than the national average.
Harrogate in North Yorkshire - another area with affluent pensioners - had only 11 repossessions per 10,000 households, a low number despite being surrounded by more deprived postcodes.
Parts of the south, including boroughs in east London, Essex, Kent, and South Wales, compared poorly to the wider region due to high unemployment. Home repossessions in Romford and Dagenham were 87% higher than the national average, closely followed by Medway at 60%.
Mr Sexton added: "Repossession levels can vary wildly within a confined geographical space thanks to local disparities in affluence and employment rates.
"However, with the north more exposed to the grind of public sector austerity and a downturn in the economy, the north-south divide could become even starker over the coming months."