A new taskforce set up by the Housing Minister Nelson McCausland earlier this year to investigate the impact of negative equity, repayment arrears and possessions has identified Derry and Limavady amongst eight repossession hotspots across Northern Ireland.
Established in early 2014 the Repossessions Taskforce has now completed its research phase and published an initial evidence paper.
Amongst its findings are that back in 2012 the banks took more per capita possession cases against Derry and Limavady mortgage debtors in bids to seize homes than in most other parts of Northern Ireland.
In Derry’s case only Armagh and Banbridge had a higher per capita possession case rate. In Limavady’s case only in the aforementioned areas, as well as Newry and Mourne, were the banks more active in seizing homes.
The initial research report reveals: “Quantifying the actual level of regional possessions is particularly challenging. The Northern Ireland Courts Service publishes statistics for the number of possession cases received and disposed, and provides a breakdown of the final orders made (NISRA, 2014).
“While these figures are not a complete representation, they are informative as a proxy of people at risk of possession.”
The taskforce identifies Limavady, Derry, Omagh, Dunagannon, Armagh, Banbridge, Newry and Carrickfergus as hotspots of possessions in 2012.
The report, however, goes on to point out that while particular areas may appear as hotspots, the data across all regions illustrates that the margins between districts are not significant and the consideration of possessions and potential mitigating actions must be done at a regional level.
The taskforce blames the high house price to earnings ratio, relaxed credit conditions and peer pressure during the boom for the high number of borrowers here in negative equity.
Remarkably, 41 per cent of borrowers with mortgages advanced since 2005 are in negative equity or are ‘mortgage prisoners’ as the taskforce describes them.
This compares with 16 per cent in the North of England and one per cent in London.
Particularly affected, the report states, are: “Single people, couples with no children, borrowers with one or two bedroom properties, those who purchased after 2005, borrowers who re-mortgaged and those in intermediate or professional occupations.”