A rising tide of repossessions and Labour in the south

After a dearth of posts on my part and leaving it up to Steve to keep the flag flying, you now get two in one day.

Here’s a piece that just went up on the excellent Southern Front, looking at the impact of respossessions in marginal parts of the south and east:


Repossessions are beginning to hit the headlines again and in the south, Britain’s repossession hotspots read like a list of key marginals Labour has to win back. Research by Shelter shows that among the worst places for repossessions are Thurrock, Harlow, the Medway Towns, Swale, Milton Keynes, and further north, Corby and Northampton.

Those facing repossession are typically families on middle and low incomes. They are often younger families who stretched themselves to buy during the mid-2000s and do not have much of a cushion to absorb a loss in income or an increase in their mortgage rate. Whether you want to call them the squeezed middle, C1s and C2s, or ‘Squeezed Strugglers’, they are some of the people Labour needs to win back to regain the seats we need in the south. Many are facing great insecurity and seriously strained finances.

The repossession rates are just the tip of the iceberg. Up to 12% of mortgages are in ‘forbearance’ – that is, banks choosing not to repossess even though homeowners are behind in their payments. Below that are millions of homeowners with incomes at breaking-point – just about covering their mortgages on flat or shrinking wages with other costs going up.

One of the lasting experiences from the previous Tory government for many families was facing the risk of repossession, as a result of recession and soaring interest rates. Government action then was insufficient, and saw 75,000 people losing their homes in a year.

During the financial crisis Labour pulled out all the stops to keep repossession rates low (less than 40,000) through a raft of measures, including extensive and free financial and legal advice, new rules in the courts to make repossession the very last resort, pressure on the banks not to repossess and mortgage rescue schemes.

This government has cut back on even the cheapest ways to support people who find themselves in trouble by reducing the financial and legal advice available. On top of this, the level of support homeowners can claim to help with mortgage costs has been halved and Labour mortgage rescue scheme has been shrunk.

Labour is fighting hard for the right of social tenants to have security in their home (with some success). As the Tories step back from supporting struggling homeowners, we must show that we will fight for the security of those who worked to buy their own homes as well.

And as interest rates can only rise, many more in southern England will find that security sorely lacking.

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