1000 Mid Ulster families face mortgage crisis after safety net removed

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A total of 1000 struggling families in Mid Ulster, who are unable to pay their mortgage, are now facing a fresh financial crisis.

The local homeowners are in receipt of Mortgage Interest Support, a scheme which pays interest costs if the mortgage holders becomes unemployed, their hours at work are reduced or they become ill or disabled.

The figure, which is one of the highest for any constituency in the North, was revealed at the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Department of Social Development.

Belfast West had the highest number of households claiming the benefit, which is meant to be a safety net against repossession, at 1.920, while Belfast South had the lowest at 460.

Neighbouring Fermanagh and South Tyrone had 660 household claiming the benefit.

However, the local households face a ‘ticking time bomb’ after changes to the benefit announced by George Osborne in the budget.

The latest move by the Treasury means that they will be facing a double blow over repayments.

From 2018 the benefit is to be changed into a loan. This loan will be repayable either when the property is sold, or when claimants return to work.

In the past, those who receive benefits to help to pay their mortgage interest were able to do so indefinitely with no need to pay anything back.

The benefit pays all or part of the interest on a claimant’s mortgage if they are getting benefits such as Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or Pension Credit. The Department of Works and Pensions said that the changes will increase claimants’ life chances and reduce repossessions.