Families are “teetering on a financial knife-edge” with one in every 121 households in the North East at risk of homelessness, a charity claims.
Shelter says 140 children in the region will wake up homeless this Christmas, while 58 people are being put at risk of eviction or repossession every day.
“Imagine the panic of receiving a notice through the door saying that you could lose your home – that’s the devastating reality for thousands of people every week,” said Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter.
“The sky high cost of housing is making it harder and harder for families to keep a roof over their heads. And with the stakes so high, all it can take is one piece of bad luck to send a family spiralling towards homelessness.”
Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that in the 12 months to the end of September there were more than 7,250 possession claims – the first stage in a court process which can end with the loss of a home – issued in county courts for homes in the North East.
Of those the highest number – 1,853 – were for properties in County Durham, followed by Newcastle (1,230) and Northumberland (1,016).
However, the highest proportion of homes on which possession orders were sought was in South Tyneside, where 938 orders were applied for – one for every 72 homes in the borough.
Councillor Allan West, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for housing, defended his authority’s approach to dealing with homelessness.
“Following a review in 2013, South Tyneside Council developed a new homelessness strategy which made homeless prevention one of our key priorities,” he said.
“Our proactive approach means that we step in to prevent households becoming homeless before their case becomes critical.
“This is reflected in figures released recently by the Department for Communities and Local Government which highlighted that the number of times we intervened during 2013/14 was almost five times the national average.
“As a social landlord, we have an early intervention approach to rent arrears and nowhere has this been better demonstrated than in the award-winning work of our Welfare Reform Team which has enabled over 92% of tenants who wanted to keep their homes after the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ maintain those tenancies.
“Eviction is used as a last resort when all other methods of engagement and arrears collection have failed.
“Since quarter four of 2013 the number of mortgage possession claims in South Tyneside has reduced from 254 to 147 and evictions resulting from possession claims from Council tenancies have reduced from the same period last year.”
At the opposite end of the scale Sunderland had the lowest proportion of applications for possession orders, with 696 – one in every 172 homes – and Gateshead saw the fewest applications overall, with 652.
According to the MOJ, of the around 223,000 possession orders applied for nationally in county courts each year, just under 53,500 result in repossessions.
If the same was true on the regional level that could mean that around 1,740 North East families have had their homes taken off them in the 2013/14 period.
And as Christmas approaches Shelter is warning that continuing “sky-high” housing costs coupled to families having little or no savings to fall back on, mean that “just one thing, like a sudden illness, can be all it takes to tip a family into a downward spiral towards losing their home.”
“Our advisers will be working non-stop this Christmas to support families who find themselves battling to keep their home – but our services are already over-stretched and we’re struggling to meet the demand, ” said Mr Robb.
“We desperately need more support from the public to help us make sure no-one is left to fight homelessness on their own this Christmas.”
To support Shelter’s emergency Christmas appeal please visit shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70060 to donate £3
Source – Newcastle Journal, 02 Dec 2014