Housing associations to buy up homes of struggling mortgage-payers in 80 local authority areas

The government is to roll out a £200m mortgage rescue scheme across the country, housing minister Margaret Beckett has announced.

The scheme, in which housing associations buy up the homes of people struggling to make mortgage payments, has so far been restricted to just 80 local authorities.

However, the government told the BBC that the scheme is being rolled out across the country from Friday. Housing minister Margaret Beckett said: “We are determined to do everything possible to ensure repossession is always a last resort.”

Margaret Beckett
Beckett: "determined to do everything possible to ensure repossession is always a last resort"

She also said she was looking particularly at helping people who have lost some but not all of their income.

The move is designed to shore up the housing market by minimising the risk of repossessions. However, the British Property Federation said the move, though welcome, is just “tinkering around the edges”.

The BPF claims that the government would do better to encourage the growth of a professional private rented sector. A BPF spokesman said: “Getting people on to the housing ladder who could not afford to be there is what's got us into this mess and there's simply no easy way out.

“Many housing associations are in trouble and face similar problems to private housebuilders who have bought land at the top of the market and now can't do anything with it. It's vital that the commercial developers, with the means to generate long term funding streams, are brought into the debate and that we start to develop new, innovative ways of delivering housing.”

But the Mayor's of London's director of housing, Richard Blakeway, said there were serious questions about the plans which neither the government or the HCA had answered: "The devil's in the detail. One area of concern to us is that you don't qualify if you are already in negative equity," He said. "The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) estimate half a million will be next year. Also, we want to know if you would be able to buy back the share of your house if your circumstances change."

At present, this would be left up to the discretion of individual registered social landords (RSLs)

Blakeway added that some other financial stipulations might exclude too many applicants, including those who had savings of more than £16,000, those whose house was worth more than £295,000 and those who earnt more than £60,000. He said that families could be particularly hit by the requirments.

"If we are confident that the scheme works and helps Londoners and the questions are answered, then we might be willing to find money from the National Affordable Housing Programme (NAHP) to fund it."