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Housing minister says repossession is the 'best thing' for home owners
02-11-2010, 07:33 PM,
Housing minister says repossession is the 'best thing' for home owners
Quote:John Healey’s comments came as statistics showed an average of 126 people a day were thrown out of their homes in 2009.

Appearing on the BBC’s Radio 5 Live, Mr Healey was asked why there were 46,000 repossessions last year despite the Government introducing schemes targeted at helping families to stay in their homes.

He replied: “In some cases there is no way round that and in some cases it is the best thing for the people who are struggling with these mortgages.”

Given the opportunity to clarify, he repeated: “Sometimes it is impossible for people to maintain the mortgage commitments they've got ... it may be the best thing in those circumstances.”

As part of The Daily Telegraph’s investigation into MPs expenses, Mr Healey was found to have made a profit of £88,000 on a flat in south London that was subsidized by the taxpayer for at least five years.

He was also found to have claimed £1,317 to replace his own front door, while he overclaimed more than £2,000 for mortgage interest.

Charities and politicians immediately called for an apology for the “grossly insensitive” comment, accusing Mr Healey of having lost touch with reality.

Shadow housing minister Grant Shapps said: “It is unbelievable that John Healey has now claimed that repossession can be the best option. Tell that to the 46,000 families who have been booted out of their homes in the past 12 months. This proves once again that Labour Ministers have completely lost touch with reality and I'm calling on the Housing Minister to apologise to the tens of thousands of families who have lost the roof over their heads.”

The Liberal Democrat’s housing minister Sarah Teather said: “If this is John Healey’s best response to record repossession figures then he should just shut up.

“These comments are grossly insensitive to families booted out of their home.

“Labour has no idea what life is like for victims of the recession. John Healey needs to get out more before he starts dismissing the misery of homelessness.”

The CML is predicting an increase in repossessions and the number of people falling behind with their monthly mortgage payments this year, saying household finances will come under greater pressure amid economic uncertainty and possible interest rate rises.

Its latest annual figure is the highest level since 1995 and 15 per cent more than in 2008.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Behind each one of these numbers is a heartbreaking story of a family losing their home and having to rebuild their lives.”

The Government claims several schemes put in place to help borrowers in financial difficulty have helped 330,000 families stay in their homes. However, figures suggest only 92 families completed the Mortgage Rescue Scheme, where eligible families can either get an equity loan to reduce their mortgage, or sell their home and remain as tenants.

Economists warned of more repossessions, saying the fragile economic recovery is unlikely to prevent unemployment rising among those in full-time work.

Howard Archer, an economist at Global Insight warned: “A significant number of home owners are still at risk.”

Mr Healey responded: "If families are deep in debt and there is no way they can keep paying their mortgage, then repossession might be the only way they can get their finances and lives back on track. But my job as Housing Minister is to ensure this is always the last resort and that they have been able to explore all other options first.
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