POLITICS: Councils Could Halt Repossesions

Article excerpt

Councils could get help to buy repossessed and unsold properties under plans to be announced by the Government, it was claimed yesterday.

The measures, which are expected to be announced next week, will give councils and housing associations the means to intervene in the flagging property market.

Local authorities could offer financial help to borrowers unable to pay mortgages in return for a stake in homes or outright ownership.

It is understood the measures will be aimed at first-time buyers and people on low incomes, particularly young families.

The extent of the housing crash was disclosed on Thursday with the latest figures showing the average UK property lost 10.5 per cent of its value in a year.

That figure was the biggest fall in property values since 1990.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said it was likely about 300,000 people owed more on their mortgage than their property was worth.

"And he warned that the figure could quadruple if price falls continued over the next year.

Similar measures are being offered in Liverpool where first-time buyers can seek help with deposits from the local authority for a small stake in their properties.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "We are determined to do everything possible to promote long term stability and fairness in the housing market.

"The international credit crunch has created significant challenges not just for the UK but other parts of Europe and the United States.

"We are looking at a wide range of options to support the housing market, working closely with industry and lenders. What form that support will take will be announced in due course."

Roger Humber, strategic policy adviser to the House Builders Association, a division of the National Federation of Builders, said: "Mopping up unsold stock attempts to show the electorate something is being done about the housing shortage, but it does absolutely nothing to stimulate the building of new homes.

"The credit crisis is ravaging mortgage markets, leaving lending at an all-time low. …