Homeless Hostles In East Cambs at Capacity As Householders Start To Feel The Pinch

PUBLISHED: 17:29 22 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:43 04 May 2010

HOSTELS in East Cambridgeshire are at capacity as householders start to feel the mortgage pinch. Housing officers will be forced to put up homeless people in expensive bed and breakfast accommodation if any more people come forward this month. Jane Holl

HOSTELS in East Cambridgeshire are at capacity as householders start to feel the mortgage pinch.

Housing officers will be forced to put up homeless people in expensive bed and breakfast accommodation if any more people come forward this month.

Jane Hollingworth, the district council's head of housing, said the number of people seeking advice had doubled in 2008 and homelessness prevention officers had 360 enquiries since April.

More than 300 names have been added to the council's housing waiting list in the last year, and as house prices in Cambridgeshire continue to rise, bucking the national trend, cash-strapped mortgage holders are struggling to fund their lifestyles.

"Enquiries have gone up, but we are finding people are getting in touch earlier,"

said Jane Hollingworth, head of housing at East Cambridgeshire District Council.

"If this is because they are more worried or they have seen media publicity, getting advice before they get in serious trouble means we are in a better place to help them."

"We have seen the housing waiting list go up by 300 last year, but that doesn't reflect the full picture," she added.

"Sanctuary Hereward [housing association] used to hold the housing waiting list and go through it every six months, send people a card and if they didn't reply they would be thrown off," she added. "Since our Home Link choice-based lettings scheme started people aren't being thrown off so quickly." Before the credit crunch struck, the district council employed a homelessness prevention officer and there are now two trained officers who can help with debts and mortgage arrears.

Mrs Hollingworth had little praise for the government's mortgage rescue plan which was announced to great fanfare this month. "It's not going to be a major thing if people don't have second or third mortgages. To be honest most of the people who are in that sort of trouble have got lots of other debt."

Even the government said the scheme would help only 6,000 people nationwide, and with more than 70,000 jobs expected to be cut in UK industry alone this year, many more householders will be feeling the pinch.

Citizen's Advice Bureaux, which help people with housing, legal and benefit issues, faced an uncertain future last year, when their funding was cut by the county council. Fearful of the impact of the credit crunch, however, councillors decided earlier this month to give the CAB £100,000 a year until 2010 to employ a full time lawyer.

County council leader Jill Tuck said the money was the first in a £500,000 bail-out for the voluntary sector. Councillors are still identifying where they want the remaining £300,000 to go.

The South East of England, particularly Cambridge and Ely areas, are among the most expensive places to live in the UK, and although house prices were down 1.5 per cent nationally in December, average prices for the county still stand at £227,000, with more than 15,000 people waiting for social housing in the Anglian region.

Coping With Financial Difficulties

nDon't stick your head in the sand. The earlier you seek advice, the sooner the problem can be dealt with. Housing officers will keep all your details confidential.

nTurn up at court. If your mortgage lender starts proceedings to recover your arrears, the judge is almost obliged to find in the lender's favour if you don't. A duty solicitor is available during court opening hours.

nAdvice is free. Citizen's Advice Bureau is funded by the taxpayer and charitable donations, and is just as well placed to help you as private debt consolidation companies you might see advertised on TV.

nWeather The Storm has advice on losing your job, financial advice for your business and money saving tips for mortgage holders. See www.weatherthestorm.org.uk

Small savings

nCut your bills. Start with cable or satellite TV, and work out how much energy you spend in a week at www.ukpower.co.uk. Switch supplier, or use it less.

nDowngrade your mobile contract and negotiate with your provider. They don't want to lose your custom so you can usually knock at least £10 off.

nGo to the library instead of the bookshop. Ely Library has a great selection, and can put new titles on request for you.

nTake a packed lunch to work. If you make it the night before, you'll struggle to pay over a pound for the ingredients, but shop bought goods will set you back around £5. If you buy lunch every working day for a year, you'll spend around £1,175 just on lunches, but making it could save you more than £900.

nDo you need the internet or a computer at home? Visiting an internet cafe may be cheaper than your broadband or dial-up provider.

Sources: National Housing Federation, East Cambs District Council, CBI.

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