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Lenders, not Labour, have kept repossession figures down

Recent figures reveal that one of the government’s much heralded schemes to keep people in their homes – the Mortgage Rescue Scheme – has managed to help just 276 households since it was launched in January 2009.

This compares with the 15,232 householders who approached local authorities for help during 2009 because they were having trouble paying their mortgages.

When the scheme was launched by then housing minister Margaret Beckett it was intended to help some 6,000 owners stay in their homes, with the plan being to help 3,000 in 2009 and 3,000 this year.

Well, it seems yet another of the government’s initiatives has faltered. I don’t think this is down to a lack of willingness to help but more naiveté when it comes to the implementation of such an extensive scheme.

Feedback from those who have applied for the scheme confirm that the process is cumbersome, with many councils poorly prepared to cope with its requirements and a lack of effective communication between local authorities and lenders.

All this comes on the back of Council of Mortgage Lenders figures which show repossessions topped 46,000 in 2009. While this was a 14-year high and some 15% up on 2008 it was far less than the 75,000 predicted by the CML for the year.

But rather than this being down to any government initiative lenders should take credit for supporting households and trying to keep them in their homes. That said, 46,000 is still too many and I’m sure more can be done.

Of course, the situation is not helped by comments such as those made by current housing minister John Healy last week.

In a live interview on BBC radio Healy said that in some cases repossession might be the best outcome for consumers.

Needless to say, there was a deafening call for him to apologise. Repossession is never the best outcome for anyone. It is costly and traumatic for those involved and should only ever be a last resort.

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