More than 20,000 homes in the East of England are at risk of eviction or repossession – the equivalent of 401 households threatened every week – according to new figures released today by Shelter.
The housing charity has revealed the hotspots across the East of England where people are most likely to face losing their home, showing Peterborough at the top of the list, followed by Luton, Stevenage and Thurrock.
The research is based on data recorded by the Ministry of Justice over the last financial year, showing how many homeowners and private or social renters have received a possession notice for their home.
Shelter is warning that despite the beginnings of economic recovery, growing numbers of families are still set to struggle in the future. It predicts that with the majority of families already struggling month to month with their housing costs and interest rates set to rise, many could soon hit danger levels.
Shelter’s free advice helpline is currently taking more than 480 calls each day, offering vital support and advice to homeless families and those still fighting to stay in their homes.
The charity is stressing that people must get advice as soon as possible to prevent arrears from spiralling out of control, and start preparing for future mortgage or rent rises.
The research shows that Newham in London is the place in England where households are most likely to face losing their home. London boroughs – where house prices are highest and affordable housing is in particularly short supply – dominate the list, but Nottingham (the number one hotspot outside of London with one in every 54 homes at risk), Peterborough (one in 60), which has the highest number of homes under threat in the East of England, and Salford (one in 60) also feature in the top 20.
The charity made public the case study of Jo, who lived in a two bed house in Suffolk with her then two year old son and husband.
She faced the trauma of being repossessed after her business went bankrupt after the recession and her relationship broke down.
Jo says: “My home was more than just a house – it was the centre of my world. I never thought I’d lose it.
“Repossession is a devastating process to go through and I can understand why people find it too overwhelming to deal with and do nothing as a result. It was too late to save my home but with support from friends and help from Shelter I avoided homelessness thankfully. I now rent a home from the council and am getting back on my feet.”
Shelter helpline adviser Liz Clare said: “We’re hearing from a growing number of people who’ve reached crisis point and picked up the phone, often with the court papers in their hand.
“It’s natural to hope mounting bills and arrears will go away, but the best thing to do is get expert advice straight away. There’s absolutely no shame in getting help and a specialist adviser can help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The charity’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: “These staggering figures show just how many families in the East of England go through the trauma of learning that their home is at risk, every single week.
“People are hearing that the economy is recovering, but we’re seeing the reality that many families across the country are still battling to keep their heads above water and keep their homes.
“Just one thing such as a job loss or serious illness can tip any of us in to a downward spiral that puts our home at risk. Our message is that no one should battle alone. Shelter can help.
“Getting advice early is the best way to halt the spiral of rent or mortgage arrears and can mean the difference between losing a home and keeping it.”