Lunchtime news Thursday 16 October 2023

Northern Rock admitted it is repossessing more than 11 homes a week, but its chairman insisted that it was not taking a tougher line than its rivals. The bank, which was nationalised in February, had 1.18 per cent of its mortgage customers in arrears by the end of June, and this figure has now increased to 1.87 per cent. Three-quarters of those repossessed were customers who had borrowed 125 per cent of a home’s value under the ‘Together’ mortgage. One in every 150 households across Britain is now three months or more in arrears. But one in every 108 Northern Rock customers has had their home taken from them compared with a national average of one in every 250.

And it could all get worse as the number of people out of work rose at its fastest rate since the recession of the early 1990s. In the three months to August unemployment rose 164,000 to just under 1.8 million people. David Blanchflower, member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, called the number truly horrendous and much worse that feared. He added that his prediction that unemployment would reach two million by Christmas now looked conservative.

However homelessness minister Iain Wright is today launching a new initiative in Birmingham, that gives young people aged 16 to 25 the opportunity to get involved in home ownership. The scheme allows for a proportion of the weekly rent to be placed into a savings account. The rent and charge payments would be kept low enough to reduce benefit dependency and maintain sustainable employment. After three years the account can be used as a deposit for a property. The scheme is different to other initiatives which are time limited and geographically tied.

HHSE has released a new report criticising housing conditions for immigrants and calling on government to improve the regulation of housing in the private rented sector, while offering more effective safety nets for both migrants and non-migrants. A spokesperson from Communities and Local Government, said that an independent review has been set up to tackle the problems faced by tenants and landlords, and to look at how the sector can be improved.

Financial reports from several housing associations have revealed falling profits and huge write-downs of assets. Analysts believe that several of the country’s 1,555 housing associations may have to be bailed out or merged in the coming months. Many associations have also started to urge ministers to rethink the model of home ownership as the tenure of choice for and to adopt a more flexible model, which would allow people to move between tenures as their circumstances change.

And finally a mile long system of vertical and horizontal tunnels and shafts built under the streets of High Holborn in London are up for sale today. Originally built as air-raid shelters in 1940, the rooms have since been used a ‘reserve war room’, public records library and telephone exchange. The site is fully equipped with electricity, water and ventilation. The sellers are looking for a purchaser to return the tunnels to productive use.