Gordon Brown announced yesterday that new guidance will be issued to judges in England and Wales in an attempt to ease the repossession rates. In the pre-action protocol plans for mortgage arrears, mortgage lenders will have to prove that they tried to help struggling homeowners before they can repossess a house – this help may come in the form of agreeing a full or partial repayment holiday until the borrower can resume full repayments, and changing the type of mortgage or extending the terms of repayment. The government also announced that it planned to bring firms offering mortgage rescue schemes under the regulation of the Financial Services Authority.
However the new proposals will not apply in Scotland and opposition parties are calling for Scottish homeowners to receive the same protection from repossession as householders in England and Wales. The Scottish government said it had already put measures in place to help people experiencing difficulties with mortgage repayments, including a support fund which aims to allow homeowners in trouble to retain ownership of their house and it is also planning a publicity campaign urging people to seek help through Citizens Advice and Debtline.
The number of people renting a property in the UK has increased by 50 per cent in the past 12 month. It is estimated that 1.6 million 20- to 39-year-olds are renting because they cannot afford to buy a place, and even a 20 per cent fall in property prices would still only open the housing market up to 600,000 buyers.
London mayor Boris Johnson is expected to move today to abolish the 50 per cent affordable homes target in London. He believes the ‘one size fits all’ target is out of place and wants to allow borough councils greater flexibility in setting the number of affordable homes they can deliver.
The South East Regional Assembly has objected to the government’s plans to build a minimum of 33,000 homes a year in the region. The assembly said there is a clear mismatch between the government’s figures and their lack of commitment to invest in roads, transport, schools, and health services. It also said it was unrealistic to increase the annual house building target in the current economic climate.
Child poverty costs Britain at least £25 billion a year, a new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found, if measured in terms of poor health, education failure, crime and subsequent lack of employment of children affected. A spokesperson for JRF said that tackling child poverty ‘would bring a double benefit – for the families… and for society’.
A national points system for the care of elderly and disabled people has been recommended by the head of the social care inspectorate in England. The present system was described as ‘so flawed and heavily criticised that immediate changes are needed’. Eligibility requirements show big variations between councils, and help to millions of vulnerable people is being denied by those that apply the measure of incapacity too strictly.
The House of Lords has ruled that a rough sleeper with mental health problems and in receipt of income support was justifiably discriminated against when the government denied him an additional disability premium because it is not paid to a person who is ‘without accommodation’. The defendant argued that this breached his human rights and he was discriminated against due to his status as a rough sleeper. While the House of Lords agreed he was discriminated against, it said the government was entitled to have a policy that encouraged disabled people to seek shelter before paying money that is unlikely to be put towards the additional household expenses faced by a disabled person.