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This is News in Brief - a weekly round up of the latest news and events affecting the housing industry and communities in the Wakefield district and beyond.

Millions fear missing January’s rent or mortgage payments, says Shelter

According to a new research by Shelter, more than three million households in Britain fear missing their rent or mortgage payments this month.  Almost 60% of people say they are struggling to meet their housing cost, while one in nine families fear to meet January’s payments, as they struggle to balance their budgets after Christmas.
Evictions hit a record high of more than 100 a day in the autumn - bailiffs repossessed more than 11,000 rented properties between July and September, the highest quarterly figure since records began in 2000, and 2,805 mortgage borrowers lost their homes during the quarter.
Nadeem Khan, one of Shelter’s Helpline Advisers, said: “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.”
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WDH says: It is concerning to see millions of people not being able to pay their rent or mortgage due to financial difficulties.  According to experts, the rise in borrowing costs could potentially push more households into financial worries.
Last year alone, nearly 500 possession orders were made for landlords and over 180 for mortgage lenders in the Wakefield district.  A possession claim is the first stage of a legal process which can end with a person or family being evicted.
We are committed in providing affordable accommodation throughout the district as well as helping people manage their money more effectively.  
Money Matters sessions are delivered all over the district, where tenants can get individual advice and guidance on their debt.  Tenants are also provided with benefits advice and encouraged to take advantage of online savings.

We continue to offer customers rent free weeks at critical costly times of the year.  We know Christmas places significant financial pressures on our tenants so we offer two rent free weeks at this time of the year which is welcomed by customers and reduces the risk of increasing arrears.

New consumer debt reaches seven-year high in UK

Consumer helplines have issued a warning after Britons ran up their highest level of new debt in November for nearly seven years, with the month’s borrowing on credit cards, loans and overdrafts hitting more than £1.25bn.  The Bank of England said over the course of three months unsecured lending had grown at its most rapid pace since October 2005, up 6.9% in November compared with November 2013.
National Debtline and StepChange said the figures from Bank of England showed a worrying rise in consumers’ reliance on credit, and warned they expected a rush of people seeking help when the first credit card bills of the year started to arrive.
Commenting on this, the Shadow Consumer Minister, Stella Creasy, said the UK had a “massive looming personal debt crisis” and many households were being forced to borrow to fund living costs. “They’re not buying big fancy TVs and posh holidays, they are borrowing to cover the gap between what they earn and what they need to pay for each month.”
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WDH says: The rise in people’s reliance on credit to get by day to day is worrying. Although unemployment is falling, wage growth remains very low and consequently millions are living on a financial edge.  According to The Money Charity, every working day 6,389 debt problems are dealt with by Citizens Advice.  We provide a range of schemes to help tenants and residents manage their finances, including Cash Wise.
Since 2013, Cash Wise has worked with over 500 participants, helping them to develop financial capability skills and highlighting ways to manage their household budgets.  As a result, after six months of intervention, the number of Cash Wise participants with our tenancies in rent arrears fell from 186 to 106. A current evaluation of the project shows very positive findings with reduced rent arrears, indications of increased self-confidence and improved financial skills.

We welcome the changes announced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) capping interest and fees at 0.8% a day, lowering the cost for most borrowers, while the total cost of a loan will be limited to 100% of the original sum. Default fees will be capped at £15 in an effort to protect people struggling to repay their debts.

We know many of our customers rely on high interest credit so any changes which reduces pressures on household budgets is viewed positively.

The changes, which came into force on 2 January 2015, mean that someone borrowing £100 for 30 days will not pay more than £24 in fees and charges if they repay the loan on time.

More than half of private renters 'lack housing alternatives'

More than half (56%) of private renters have rented for longer than they planned due to a lack of alternatives, according to a YouGov survey.
The statistics reveal that almost two-thirds (63%) of private renters between the ages of 25 to 44 years old thought they would have bought their own house by now.  The survey found that 28% feel unable to put roots down because they may have to move soon, with this figure rising to 32% among renters with children in the household.
David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “It’s clear that the younger generation is being let down, and given no alternative but to move from one short-term let to the next, never being able to save enough to buy because their wages are eaten up by rent.”
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WDH says: Although many potential house purchasers, who are privately renting, are concerned about not being able to get onto the property ladder, the number of first time homeowners has reached its highest level since 2007, mainly due to cheap mortgage rates and government schemes like Help to Buy, which requires smaller deposits.
For people who are struggling to become homeowners, we offer the Shared Ownership and Rent to Buy schemes. Both schemes are aimed to give people the opportunity to fulfil the dream of owning a home by ultimately purchasing a share of the property and pay an affordable rent on the rest.  We currently have two Rent to Buy properties and 15 Shared Ownership properties available.
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