Headlines: February 23rd, 2009

Local authorities are warning that there could be five million people on council house waiting lists in a year’s time. The warning came from the Local Government Association in response to figures showing a sharp rise in the number of homes being repossessed.

The latest statistics from the Department of Justice showed that courts in England and Wales issued 14 per cent more mortgage possession orders in the three months to December than in the same period the year before. The LGA is concerned that councils are being left to pick up the pieces because banks are overstretched.

“Even when the economic good times were rolling, councils saw ever increased pressure on their social housing stock. An average of 90,000 households join the waiting list ever year and we expect this to rise,” said Paul Bettison who chairs the LGA’s Environment Board.

He said authorities were keen to provide decent homes for families that could not afford to rent in the private sector or to buy their first home, but he added, “Councils have been hamstrung by the lack of freedom to borrow off their assets to invest in building or buy new homes for those who need them most. Town halls also need more flexibility to use existing housing stock.”

The Justice Department said a new mortgage pre-action protocol had come into effect for possession claims in the County Courts from mid-November and there was evidence that its implementation date coincided with a fall of around half in the daily and weekly numbers of new mortgage repossession claims being issued in the courts. The protocol gives clear guidance on what the courts expect lenders and borrowers to have done prior to a claim being issued.