Nearly 10,000 homes repossessed in first three months of 2012


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The Independent Online

A total of 9,600 homes were repossessed in the first three months of 2012, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said today.

This was identical to the same period of 2011, but up ten per cent on the previous quarter. The CML described the situation as “stable”, and suggested it might lower its forecast for the year as a whole in the summer.

It had predicted that repossessions would reach 45,000 in 2012.

But housing charities warned that rising mortgage rates could see repossessions rise. More than a million homeowners saw their mortgage rates rise earlier this month following a string of increases announced by lenders, blaming the weak economy and the increased cost of funding a mortgage.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “With many lenders raising interest rates, hundreds of thousands of struggling homeowners will be worrying how they will cope with an increase in mortgage costs.”

He added: “Sadly, recent changes to Support for Mortgage Interest mean that families who face repossession will find there is less support available for them.

“We're really concerned that government policy to cut the safety net for homeowners at a time of increasing unemployment will inevitably lead to more households facing the devastation of losing their home.”

The CML report also highlighted a “modest improvement” in mortgage arrears. The number of mortgages with arrears of 2.5 per cent or more of the outstanding balance fell to 157,800, down from 160,300 at the end of December and 170,500 a year ago.

Despite the general improvement in the arrears figures, there are 28,000 loans with arrears of 10 per cent or more, the highest number since June 2000 and 300 higher than a year ago.

Meanwhile, new research from the TUC union showed that the cost of living has been rising more quickly for the poorest households as a result of higher energy and food bills.

The TUC said CPI inflation for the poorest tenth of households in February was 4.1 per cent, compared to 3.3 per cent for the richest 10 per cent.

Poorer families have been hit by higher inflation over the past year because they spend a larger proportion of their income on food and utilities, said the union group.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “People have been getting poorer every month for the last two years as high inflation, tax rises and the dire state of the economy take their toll on family budgets.

“Over the last year the poorest households have suffered more than anyone else from rising food prices and soaring gas and electricity bills. The Chancellor's obsession with raising VAT, along with swingeing cuts to tax credits, has made life even tougher for those on low to medium incomes.

“Consumer spending plays a crucial role in driving our economy so it's in all our interests for people to start getting decent pay rises. But the government policy of confidence shattering austerity is having the opposite effect.”