Tagged: Shelter

South Tyneside is the North East’s eviction blackspot

More people in South Tyneside are at risk of losing the roof over their heads than anywhere else in the North East, alarming new statistics reveal.

The figures, from the housing charity Shelter, reveal that more than 350 people in the region have faced the threat of eviction every week over the last year.

The charity also identified ‘home threat hotspots’ – where people are most likely to face the risk of losing their home.

South Tyneside topped that list with as many as one in every 103 homeowners and people living in the private rented sector under threat of eviction, followed by Newcastle upon Tyne (one in 112), Hartlepool (one in 114) and Middlesbrough (one in 123).

Full story: http://northstar.boards.net/thread/66/south-tyneside-north-eviction-blackspot

bannerfans_15660331

Tenant evictions reach six-year high amid rising rents and benefit cuts

The number of tenants evicted from their homes is at a six-year high, according to new figures, as rising rents and cuts to benefits make tenancies increasingly unaffordable.

County court bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 11,000 families in the first three months of 2015, an increase of 8% on the same period last year and 51% higher than five years ago.

The increase in the number of tenants losing their homes means 2015 is on course to break last year’s record levels. Nearly 42,000 families were evicted from rental accommodation in 2014, the highest number since records began in 2000.

Rental prices have soared in many UK cities but wages failing to keep pace with rising costs and caps to benefits have left many poorer tenants unable to make payments.

Separate figures also published on Thursday showed almost 59,000 households have had their benefits capped in the past two years. Nearly half of those families were in London, where the the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom home is £2,216.

Housing charities said the figures were a glaring reminder that many tenants were struggling to maintain a roof over their heads, and they called on the new government to do more to tackle a housing crisis in the UK.

The latest repossession statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice, reveal the highest number of evictions in a single quarter since 2009, when comparable records began, with nearly 126 families forced out every day.

Between January and March, 11,307 tenants and their families were evicted by bailiffs, compared with a figure of 10,380 between October and December last year, and 10,482 in the first quarter of 2014.

The record figure comes as the number of landlord repossession claims – the first step of the legal process leading to an eviction – also rose. Claims were up 10% on the last quarter, but at 42,226 they remained below a six-year high of 47,208 in the first quarter of 2014.

Claims by both private and social landlords were up, the figures showed, although most of the rise was explained by claims by the latter. Social landlords were behind nearly five times as many attempts to recover properties than private landlords, the figures showed. These landlords are typically housing associations providing homes at lower rents than the market rate, often to tenants who receive housing benefit.

In the first three months of the year, 64% of possession claims were made by social landlords. These 27,204 court actions came alongside 5,551 made by private landlords and 9,741 accelerated claims, which could have been by either social or private landlords.

In May 2014, when the threat of evictions reached its highest level for a decade, the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations across England, told the Guardian the bedroom tax was causing problems for social landlords. The policy cuts the amount of housing benefit paid to social housing tenants whose homes are deemed too large for their requirements. Benefit sanctions were also thought to be causing problems.

But many housing associations, particularly in London and the south-east, have turned out tenants as they have sought to redevelop generations-old estates to take advantage of the big rise in property values. This has in turn led to an increase in the number of grassroots campaigns to oppose evictions, such as the Focus E15 mothers.

In one case of eviction resistance last week, activists from Housing Action Southwarkand Lambeth in London answered a call from a 14-year-old girl to successfully resist her family’s eviction from a flat in an estate that Southwark council had marked for demolition. Elsewhere in the capital, shorthold tenants in Brixton’s Loughborough Park estate, owned by the Guinness Partnership housing association, have defied eviction orders by occupying their flats.

The MoJ figures came on the same day as the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that 58,690 households across the UK had their benefits capped to a maximum of £26,000 a year since April 2013. Londoners were the worst affected, with 26,636 families facing a cut in benefits over the period to February 2015, followed by 5,953 in the rest of the south-east.

DWP proposals to meet the Conservatives’ pledge to cut £12bn from the welfare budget, in documents leaked to the Guardian last week, included barring under-25s from claiming housing benefit, increasing the bedroom tax on certain categories of tenants, limiting welfare payments by family size and freezing welfare benefits at current levels.

Responding to the eviction statistics, Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

“Today’s figures are a glaring reminder that sky-high housing costs and welfare cuts are leaving thousands of people battling to keep a roof over their heads.

“Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact of a housing market at boiling point, with the cost of renting so high that many families are living in fear that just one thing like losing their job or becoming ill could leave them with the bailiffs knocking at the door.

“The new government must make sure people aren’t left to fall through the cracks and hurtling towards homelessness by preserving, if not strengthening, the frayed housing safety net to protect ordinary families desperately struggling to make ends meet.”

Betsy Dillner, director of the campaign group Generation Rent, said:

“These record eviction figures and signs that they are accelerating are a stark reminder of the housing crisis that the government must urgently start taking seriously now they’re back in power.

“Whether it’s an inability to pay expensive rents or a landlord’s desire to take back their property, the fact that more than 40,000 families were forced out of their homes last year is a symptom of the government’s failure to create a sustainable housing market.”

The housing minister, Brandon Lewis, defended the government’s performance, pointing out that mortgage repossessions had fallen drastically, keeping owner-occupiers in their “hard-earned homes”.

He said:

“Mortgage repossessions continue to fall at 56% lower than this time last year, and the lowest annual figure since the series began in 1987. Meanwhile, numbers of county court mortgage possession claims continue to fall to the lowest quarterly number since records began. This is thanks to our work to tackle the deficit and keep interest rates low, helping more families to stay in their hard earned homes.

“There are strong protections in place to guard families against the threat of homelessness. We increased spending to prevent homelessness, with over £500m made available to help the most vulnerable in society and ensure we don’t return to the bad old days when homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today.”

Source – The Guardian,  14 May 2015

Election Candidates urged to back pledges on homelessness

A North-East think-tank is calling on parliamentary candidates to support a series of pledges to tackle the region’s homelessness crisis.

Research by the North East Homelessness Think Tank (NEHTT) has shown that many more people are at risk of homelessness today than at the time of the last general election in 2010, and that the numbers of people falling victim to homelessness are rising.

These trends are particularly worrying because of recent changes to housing and welfare policies and potential plans for further cuts to public spending.

NEHTT, of which Northumbria University is a founding member, is asking candidates to sign up to its charter to support specific action by the next Government.

NEHTT is a regional group comprising academics, researchers and policy officers.

Key partners include Northumbria University, Youth Homeless North East, Homeless Link, Shelter, Barnardo’s, Northern Housing Consortium, Changing Lives, IPPR North, Oasis Aquila Housing and the NE Regional Homelessness Group, as well as independent specialists.

The pledges are:

*Appropriate housing with adequate support services will be provided for vulnerable people making access to sufficient social housing a priority.

*Housing benefit will be retained for under 25s

*It will be compulsory to find settled accommodation for offenders leaving prison or who are homeless within the community.

*All houses in multiple occupation and B&Bs which cater for homeless people will be inspected and must provide good quality facilities.

The statutory definition of homelessness will be improved by ensuring that all forms of homelessness – rough sleeping, those in temporary accommodation and ‘sofa surfers’ – are officially recorded.

 Adele Irving, research fellow at Northumbria University and one of the founding members of NEHTT said: “We believe that it is vitally important that policymakers not only recognise and take action to address homelessness, but actively campaign and work towards achieving long-term change in the law around homelessness.
 “The charter is a series of pledges which we hope candidates elected on May 7 will support in the next parliament.

“The pledges are based on the knowledge we have, from a wide range of research evidence, about what would make a real difference to address the key issues encountered by many homeless people, and in particular about homelessness amongst single people and under-25s.”

So far, signatories include four Labour candidates and six Green candidates. Further support has also come from two Labour front bench MPs, and two Conservative candidates.

Source – Northern Echo, 10 Apr 2015

Hartlepool families’ debts will top £10m this year as people struggle to cope

Struggling Hartlepool families will see their debts top £10million this year, a charity has predicted.

Bosses at Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) say they are handling 120 new enquiries a week.

The news comes after the town was identified as one of the three worst areas in the region for people facing the threat of eviction.

Bureau manager Joe Michna said the year had seen a sharp rise in the number of people asking for help after relaunching their telephone advice service, out of action for 18 months.

“We have seen a big increase in the number of local residents seeking advice and assistance with both debt and welfare benefit issues,” he said.

“The bureau has simply never been busier.”

Between April 2013 and April 2014, the bureau gave advice and assistance to residents with total combined debts of more than £8million.

Although final figures for the present financial year have not yet been collated, bosses say they expect the total to rise to more than £10million.

The problems facing Hartlepool families were highlighted in December, when the town was identified as an eviction hot-spot, with one in every 104 homes at risk of repossession.

Hartlepool had the third worst rate in the North East, behind only South Tyneside and Newcastle, according to statistics published by homeless charity Shelter.

The average level of personal debt among CAB clients is between £25,000 and £30,000, excluding mortgage liabilities, and particular problems include rent and mortgage arrears, credit card debts, personal and pay day loans and overdrafts.

We are running an innovative Mental Health Advice and Advocacy Service which is very much in demand and has given advice and assistance to 250 people who have some form of mental health condition”, said Mr Michna.

We could not provide our service without the help of our key funding bodies and we say a special thanks to the Big Lottery Fund, the Money Advice Service, the Northern Rock Foundation and the Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group for their financial support.”

Anyone who wants financial support and advice can call into the bureau in Park Road between 9.30am and 3pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Telephone advice is available on 01429 408 401 between 9.30am and 3pm on Tuesday and Thursday and the bureau can be contacted via e-mail on enquiries@hartlepool.cabnet.org.uk

or through the website http://www.hartlepool-cab.co.uk

Source – Hartlepool Mail,  27 Feb 2015

Evictions Soar To Record High

The number of evictions in England and Wales have soared to the highest level since records began, according to official Government figures.

Ministry of Justice figures show that 41,956 households who rented their homes were evicted between January to December 2014.

Around 8,000 families in England and Wales are losing their home every month, reports 24dash.com.

The shocking figure represents an 11% increase on the previous year and is at the highest level since records began in 2000.

An estimated 21% of landlord possession claims made by landlords between October to December 2014 will result in tenants being evicted. But the figure could be anywhere between 17% and 24%.

Rob Campbell , chief executive of the housing and homeless charity Shelter, warned of the “devastating impact” a shortage of affordable homes is having on struggling households.

“With the cost of housing sky-high, we are hearing from increasing numbers of families who are terrified that just one thing, like a sudden illness or job loss, will leave them homeless”, he said.

eviction-notice

Mr Campbell slammed Government welfare cuts for “making it harder and harder for people to stay in their homes”.

He urged politicians from all parties to “commit to building the genuinely affordable homes that we desperately need”.

In related news, a Bill is currently passing through parliament which could make so-called revenge or retaliatory evictions illegal.

If the Bill is passed into law, it would prevent landlords from evicting tenants within six months of receiving an improvement or hazard awareness notice.

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  12 Feb 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/evictions-soar-record-high/

One in 13 people in the North East face losing their homes this January

Thousands of people in the North East risk losing their homes this month, new research has revealed.

One in 13 rent or mortgage payers across the region are worried they will be unable to make payments this January, homeless charity Shelter has claimed.

The research, conducted in partnership with YouGov, also revealed 62% of people are already struggling to keep up with their housing costs.

The figures have prompted the charity to warn that ignoring money worries rather than seeking advice could lead to people’s home being put at risk.

A quarter of people in the region said they would feel too ashamed to ask for help if struggling with housing payments.

Shelter has seen a surge in the number of people visiting its website for advice on rent and mortgage arrears, and is urging anyone having difficulty meeting their housing costs to get help as early as possible.

One person who sought help was mother-of-two Katharine, who works unpredictable shifts and lives in constant fear she won’t be able to meet her rent payments each month.

Katherine said:

“I work every hour I can to support my family but each month I wonder if I’m going to able to make my rent, and I’m expecting things to be especially bad at Christmas, even though we cut back on spending as much as we could.

“I’ve borrowed money from family and even had to stop paying bills to keep the roof over my children’s heads.

“It’s horrible to start another year not knowing if I can afford to keep my home.”

Shelter’s helpline adviser Nadeem Khan said:

“Every day at Shelter we hear from people who are feeling overwhelmed by mounting rent or mortgage bills, as the increasing pressure of sky high housing costs continues to take its toll.

“Many have spent a long time thinking they have nowhere to turn and are often close to breaking point by the time they come to us. If you’re in this situation, it’s so important to remember you’re not alone and that help is available.

“I spoke to a lady recently who was sick with worry for months because she couldn’t meet her mortgage payments and felt too ashamed to ask for help. When finally a court notice landed on her doorstep she came to us and we were able to help the family keep their home.

“We all understand how tempting it is to bury your head in the sand, but advice from Shelter is only a click or a phone call away – so get advice early to prevent things from spiralling out of control.”

For free and independent advice from Shelter, visit shelter.org.uk or call the helpline on 0808 800 4444

Shelter’s top 5 tips to avoid eviction or repossession:

  1. Get expert advice. If you are struggling to pay your rent, talk to an expert adviser who can take you through your options and advise the next best steps for you. Visit www.shelter.org.uk/advice or call Shelter’s free helpline on 0808 800 4444.
  2. Make the mortgage or rent your priority. Paying your mortgage or rent should always be your number one priority. If you have other debts such as credit cards and phone bills you can take action to deal with these separately.
  3. Respond to letters and phone calls. It’s natural to want to keep your head down and hope it’ll sort itself out but it’s important to read everything your mortgage lender, landlord or letting agent sends to you. Keep records of every letter and phone call.
  4. Have a rainy day plan. It can take just one thing, like losing your job or falling ill, to put your home at risk. Avoid payday loans, there are usually much safer and cheaper alternatives.
  5. Turn up for court hearings. If the worst comes to the worst, make sure you attend the possession hearing so that you can put your case to the judge. If you don’t have legal representation you can be assigned a court duty solicitor on the day. Get advice as soon as you get the hearing date to give yourself the best possible chance.

    Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Jan 2015

Shelter claims one in every 121 North East households at risk of homelessness

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

More people from the North East contacting a homelessness helpline than ever before

More people than ever before are contacting a homelessness helpline fearing they are about to be forced onto the streets.

The charity Shelter has spoken to more than 2,000 people in the North East in the last year on the brink of homelessness – a 28% rise since 2012.

They also found that 28 households in the region are at risk of losing their homes everyday through mortgage and landlord possession claims.

Stephanie, who lives near Chester-le-Street, said she rang Shelter after her husband was injured in a serious accident and she could not keep up with mortgage payments without his wage.

She said:

“I found myself facing homelessness when my husband had a serious accident. He ended up in hospital in intensive care for months, and with his wage no longer coming in, we really struggled to keep up with the mortgage payments.

“We weren’t able to get assistance with my husband’s care, and without his wages, we just couldn’t keep up.”

At the same time as Stephanie was trying to secure specialist care for her husband, she said she was inundated with calls about the house from her mortgage company.

Eventually this culminated in a warrant for repossession which was issued a year ago – prompting Stephanie to call Shelter for the first time.

Shelter helpline adviser Nadeem Khan, who helps people in the North East, said:

“It’s so heart-breaking to hear from families struggling to keep a roof over their heads, especially around this time of year.

“Hearing the panic in a parent’s voice when they’ve just been evicted or had their home repossessed never gets any easier. Sadly, every year we get more and more of these calls over the holidays, and this Christmas will be no different.”

The number of people at risk of homelessness who called the Shelter helpline in the North East from October 2013 to September 2014 rose to 2,055 from 1,609 between October 2011 and September 2012, an increase of 28% or 446 people over two years.

As England’s shortage of affordable homes continues to push housing costs sky high, the charity is expecting even more families to be in desperate need of its help this Christmas.

Stephanie said calling Shelter after her husband became ill has changed things around for her family and they will now have a roof over their heads this Christmas.

She said: “There was no talking down to me, no telling me what I had to do.

“They referred me to a great adviser and they were absolutely fantastic, they’ve helped me so much.”

After securing more time from the court to look for somewhere else to live, Durham County Council helped her find a suitable bungalow that will accommodate her husband when he is out of hospital.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  19 Nov 2014

Homeless Families Forced To Live In ‘Unsafe’ Temporary Accommodation Soars To Five Year High

The number of homeless families housed in temporary accommodation across England has risen to a five-year-high, the latest figures show.

Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that 59,710 homeless households were living in temporary accommodation in England, including B&B’s, at the end of June 2014 – 6% higher than June 2013 and the highest level for five years.

The startling figures have been blamed partly upon a significant rise in the number of private sector tenants losing their homes, as landlords cash in on a resurgent housing market.

Charities raised concerns earlier this year about an apparent rise in the number of ‘revenge evictions‘ (This is Money).

30% of all homeless applications between 1 April and 30 June 2014 came from private sector tenants. The figure represents a 27% increase on the same quarter in 2013 and is the most common reason given by households for becoming homeless.

Gill Payne, director of policy and external affairs at the National Housing Federation, said:

This shocking rise in the number of families stuck in emergency housing is down to our desperate shortage of affordable homes.

“It’s completely unacceptable that we have thousands of people living in so-called temporary housing, including B&Bs, that are expensive, often in poor condition and offer no stability from which to rebuild their lives.”

Figures also show that the number of homeless families with children housed in bed and breakfasts (B&B’s) has risen by 2% to 2,130 by the end of June 2013. The number of households without children living in B&B’s increased by 6% to 4,600.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

Behind every one of these shocking statistics stands a person or a family who’s gone through the tragedy of losing their home. And what’s more worrying is that we know these figures are only the tip of the iceberg.”

Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy and communications for Homeless Link, said:

The fact that so many people are being placed in temporary accommodation should send another clear signal that there is a desperate shortage of homes that are genuinely affordable to those in greatest need. The alternative of housing people in accommodation like B&Bs is not only unsafe, but is also expensive to taxpayers.”

13,140 households were accepted as being homeless in the second quarter of this year (1 April – 30 June 2014), 2% lower than the same time in 2013.

Source – Welfare News Service, 25 Sept 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/homeless-families-forced-live-unsafe-temporary-accommodation-soars-five-year-high/

3.4 Million Households Living On A ‘Financial Cliff-Edge’, Say Shelter

3.4 million households across the UK are living on a “financial cliff-edge”, where a small drop in income could cost them their homes, new figures reveal today.

Analysis of government data by the University of St Andrews, on behalf of the homeless charity Shelter, reveals that one in eight low-income families are living with unaffordable housing costs.

 Statistics also show that one in ten working families have been forced to sell possessions to pay the rent or mortgage.

Average rental costs in the UK currently stands at £694 a month but rents in London have soared to £1,412 a month – more than twice the national average.

Rent has also become less affordable in the South-west and South-east of England, where average income is 2.55 times and 2.93 times the median national average respectively.

Mum of two Lou, 42, works full-time but still struggles to cover housing costs.

“Even though I work every day and live in a small flat, the rent eats up so much money that it’s almost impossible to make do with what’s left over each month, and I can’t move because there’s nowhere else remotely near to work I could dream of affording”, she told Shelter.

I’ve had to borrow money off my friends and family to cover my rent, and I’m always making tough decisions on what I can and can’t afford for my youngest. Things have got so bad that I’ve even missed paying bills because I had to put food on the table, and that’s when the debts start to mount up.

“It’s such an uphill battle. I’ve faced losing my home before and I live in dread of having to go through that again. The idea of losing my job just doesn’t bear thinking about.”

The Housing Benefit bill for working families is set to soar by more than £1 billion by 2018. Years of lower than inflation wage rises, and the lowest ever levels of house building, have resulted in a rising number of households who are struggling to cover housing costs.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said:

Every day at Shelter we hear from people who, through no fault of their own, are finding it impossible to keep up with sky-high housing costs. It’s terrifying to think that many of us are resorting to avoiding bills or selling possessions in a desperate bid to make ends meet.

“The government must make sure families who are already battling to keep their heads above water don’t slip through the growing holes in our safety net, and into a downward spiral which could result in the loss of their home.”

Source – Welfare News Service, 09 Sept 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/3-4-million-households-living-financial-cliff-edge-say-shelter/