London's Barking and Dagenham borough tops repossession hotspots list
The threat many families face of losing their home has been
starkly highlighted, as the areas most at risk of repossession
proceedings were named.
Barking and Dagenham in London was named by charity Shelter as England's most at-risk area, closely followed by Knowsley in the North West and Thurrock in the East of England.
Lewisham in south London and Rossendale, also in the North West, came in at fourth and fifth place respectively.
Using official figures, Shelter found that there were just over eight possession claims per 1,000 homes in Barking and Dagenham, more than twice as high as the national average.
Possession claims, which are recorded by the Ministry of Justice, are the first step in making a repossession and not all houses end up being repossessed.
Researchers said they found a strong link between rising unemployment and repossession, with unemployment in hotspot areas having risen at a much greater rate than areas with the lowest risk.
Chief executive of Shelter, Campbell Robb, said: "Most people think that repossession will never happen to them, but rising unemployment, rising living costs and high house prices mean that many people are living close to the edge already, and risk falling into a spiral of debt and repossession.
"The journey from being a homeowner to becoming homeless is frighteningly swift, with just one small thing like a wage cut, a health problem or a job loss meaning that a family can no longer meet their mortgage payments.
"When repossession happens, the impact on families is devastating - research shows people think repossession is worse than having to fight a child custody battle."
As well as facing tougher criteria to take out a mortgage, borrowers have also been hit by a steady rise in rates for new mortgages in recent months, despite record low interest rates, as lenders deal with the increased cost of funding a mortgage amid the weak economy and the ongoing eurozone crisis.
More than a million existing mortgage borrowers also saw their rates rise last month as a string of lenders put them up.
Mr Robb said: "Housing is the largest monthly cost for many homeowners, yet the affordability of housing is not getting the same government attention as the monthly costs of other essentials such as food or energy bills."
He said those struggling with mortgage arrears should contact their mortgage provider to avoid repossession and seek advice from bodies such as Shelter.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said: "By tackling the record deficit we inherited we've prevented the need for rapid rises in interest rates that would have put pressure on hard-working families, meaning repossessions are at their lowest level since 2007.
"But I'm determined that help is available to those facing the real and frightening prospect of losing their home. That's why I've given £19 million to councils so they can offer short-term loans to struggling homeowners, and over £3 million to the National Homelessness Advisory Service, run by Shelter and Citizens Advice, to ensure help is on hand to families when they need it most.
"Like Shelter, I would urge anyone struggling with their mortgage to seek early help, so that repossession is always the last resort."
Here are Shelter's repossession risk hotspot areas, with the number of possession claims made per 1,000 homes rounded to the nearest two decimal points:
1. Barking and Dagenham, London, 8.44
2. Knowsley, North West, 7.20
3. Thurrock, East of England, 6.51
4. Lewisham, London, 6.46
5. Rossendale, North West, 6.46
6. Rochdale, North West, 6.41
7. Blackburn with Darwen, North West, 6.16
8. Burnley, North West, 6.11
9. Newham, London, 6.07
10. Luton, East of England, 6.00
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