Rising rates prompt repossessions fear

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Rising property prices and interest rates saw the numbers of Norfolk homeowners facing threats of repossession rise by nearly a fifth in the last year - the largest increase in East Anglia.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Rising property prices and interest rates saw the numbers of Norfolk home-owners facing threats of repossession rise by nearly a fifth in the past year - the largest increase in East Anglia.

Figures issued by the Department for Constitutional Affairs showed that, in Norfolk, the number of those at risk of losing their homes in 2006 rose from 1,066 to 1,267 - an increase of 19pc on the previous 12 months.

In Suffolk, repossession claims were up 5pc from 1,210 to 1,268.

In Cambridgeshire, there was a 12pc increase from 1,569 to 1,755.

Jude Wood, regional manager for the homelessness charity, Shelter, called on the government to strengthen the safety net for those struggling to keep up with their mortgages and to build more low-cost homes.

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"More and more people in Norfolk are living with the devastating threat of homelessness, which can rob families and children of their security and stability," she said.

"Sky-high prices created by a chronic shortage of housing are forcing more families to overstretch themselves to get on the property ladder."

In the east of England, policy-makers want just over a third of all new homes to be "affordable". But the actual figure being built is around 17pc, and ministers are shying away from imposing regional targets in favour of leaving the final totals to local councils.

Jim Chamberlin, debt adviser at Norwich Citizens Advice Bureau, said those struggling to pay their mortgages often left it too late before seeking

help.

"You should get help early," he said. "If you have got a problem, talk to the lender and see if you can cut your payments in the short term.

"Even switching to interest-only payments for a short spell is preferable to doing a voluntary sale.

He added: "It's not that people don't want to do anything about it; they

often don't know where the help is available.

"They are more frightened about the bailiffs coming around for their council tax, and they think losing their home is further down the line."

Norfolk home-owners struggling with their mortgage can obtain free, independent help and support through advice desks operating at Norwich County Court and King's Lynn County Court.

For more help and advice log on to go to www.shelter.org.uk or call the free housing advice line on 0808 800 4444.