WEYMOUTH and Portland has been identified as a housing repossession hotspot.
New research, based on data recorded by the Ministry of Justice and released by the housing and homelessness charity Shelter, found that one in 74 homes in the borough was at risk of having a possession claim on it, with 244 homes repossessed in the last year.
More than 13,200 homes a year area are at risk of repossession or eviction in the South West, the equivalent of 36 every day and alongside Gloucester, Weymouth and Portland has the highest repossession rates in the region.
They are above areas such as Bristol, Bournemouth and Plymouth.
Weymouth and Portland is ranked 98th nationally, but regionally it is top based on the rate of possession claims on rented/mortgaged households.
The charity is warning sky high housing costs are pushing more and more families in the region to the brink.
Shelter and other local homeless charities such as Soul Food are currently struggling to meet demand for services and are calling for support to help more people stay in their homes.
The latest results have led to calls from local leaders for action to be taken on the current housing crisis, with low wages and soaring property prices blamed for the surge.
Mayor of Weymouth and Portland Cllr Kate Wheller said: “We are of course a low wage economy with very high property prices, high because of second home owners and a buy to let market that prevails here.
“It’s a cause for real concern.
Cllr Penny McCartney, who represents Tophill West on Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, said: “I think it’s quite sad really that we show on the list. It’s something I’m really keen to prevent from happening, people losing their properties.
“People should be able to rent a flat or house and know they are protected.”
Cllr McCartney said she respected Shelter as a source of information.
She said: “Its Rogue Landlord campaign is something I want to pursue with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council. West Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole are all signed up and we are not.
“I’ve put it back through for full council debate because we need to say this is not acceptable.”
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said 36 households in the South West were at risk of losing their home every day.
He added: “Each one of these will have had their lives turned upside down by this experience as they faced seeing their home, the foundation of their life, ripped away from underneath them.
“Tragically we are seeing more and more people coming to us for help, people who have been struggling to make ends meet and then just one change of circumstances has pushed them spiralling towards homelessness. “We urgently need people’s support so we can help more people in the South West avoid the nightmare of losing their home.”
High value employment the key for seaside towns’ prosperity, says MP
SOUTH Dorset MP Richard Drax said the data re-emphasised the need to get high value jobs into the local economy.
Mr Drax said: “Nationally, repossessions are at their lowest since 2007 and in addition, the county court mortgage claims are continuing to fall by nearly two-thirds since 2013.
“There are several seaside towns that are high up on the list and I suspect that it’s the high number of rental properties in these areas and as a consequence of that, tenants who are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage find themselves heading towards repossession.
“This underlines the necessity to get the economy back and to get high value jobs into coastal towns, especially ours. If you don’t have much income you can’t afford the rent or mortgage you run the risk of becoming homeless.
“The key is in getting the economy back to its height, which it is, and it puts emphasis back on to Dorset to make sure we get as many high value jobs into the local economy for local people rather than relying on the seasonal jobs which we did during the recession.
“Of course, we also want to build more homes for local people. Government figures show that 420,000 have been built, and of that 170,000 are affordable.
“Everyone is aware that the there is a need to deliver as best they can to provide homes for local people at affordable prices.”
Labours parliamentary candidate for South Dorset Simon Bowkett said the region was suffering the effects of the “cost of living crisis.”
Mr Bowkett said: “These results are disappointing but not entirely surprising.
“Purbeck was named in the top 10 last year so we knew there was a problem and I think the South West is suffering the most from the current cost of living crisis. People talk about the divide between the north and the south, and even though there is a certain truth in that the unemployment might be higher in the north there is a lower cost of living there.
“The problem in the South West is that property prices remain incredibly high but the careers open to local people are part time, seasonal jobs with low wages and there are certain parts in the South West and in Weymouth and Portland where the house prices are 13 times the average salary.
“That is simply not sustainable.
“If we are not careful the only people who will be able to get on to the local property ladder will be people who have made their money elsewhere and are moving in to the area.
“I think we need action to help stop this trend, in we need more jobs for local people and bigger jobs for local people and I am looking to launch a campaign about this in September.
“Plus, we also need more housing.
“We have got to build more homes, and one of my biggest frustrations is everyone is in favour of building more homes in the borough but when it might be in their wards, people cool on the idea.”
A struggle to get work
JILL Hordle, a Weymouth resident, pictured left, said she was forced to sell her home because she was worried it might be repossessed after she struggled to find a job in the area, and slept on her friend’s sofa for three months as she tried to find another house.
Ms Hordle said: “I was struggling to afford the mortgage repayments and I did think that I might be repossessed so I sold it before it got that far.
“One of the main problems is there are jobs out there, but they are for zero-hour contracts or they are for three or four hour contracts and then the employers demand that you are flexible otherwise they won’t give you the job and that means you can’t look for other work because you might have to go and work there at the drop of a hat.
“It’s ridiculous really. We can’t change Weymouth and Portland being seasonal, but there should be some sort of rules in place that make it easier for local people to get jobs.”
And Elaine Legg, from the Weymouth charity Soul Food that provides support and help to homeless people, said: “We are very saddened to hear of these results.
“We have had an influx of people and families accessing the services we offer and we are obviously very concerned that this is the case and it continue in the future, because there is not a lot of support for homeless people full stop never mind how they might be re-homed.
“The people we deal with are generally single individuals but these repossessions will normally affect families the hardest.
“It’s quite upsetting that families would be faced with being homeless in this day and age.”
‘A concern but it’s no surprise...’
KEVIN Brookes, spokesman for housing at Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, pictured above, said he wasn’t surprised by the figures but he was concerned by them Cllr Brookes said: “I think it’s a sign of the times.
“This situation is probably common throughout the country if someone was to lose a partner or partnerships break up or if people lose their job, they are pushed into mortgage or rent arrears.
“When I look at the figures for Weymouth and Portland, when people are homeless it’s because their tenancy agreements have come to an end and that is obviously a symptom of the current system. Landlords are unwilling to allow people to stay for longer than 12 months and what we need to do is get landlord to rent their properties for a bit longer.
“We are in a part of the world that is a great place to live with stunning scenery, but we do suffer from high property prices and the general economy of the area doesn’t make it possible for local people to buy the houses.
“The general high property prices combined with low wages and seasonal nature of the local economy is all combined. The fact that remains that the economy is on the up but wages are not keeping up with them.
“It’s a concern if one person loses their home, I can imagine it must be quite a stressful and horrible scenario.
“If people fear their homes are going to be repossessed, get help early, the housing facilities from the council are there to help people if they find themselves in this situation.”