Saturday, December 17, 2005

Say no!

You’d normally think of people in poverty being single mums on council estates or a rented bed sit.

It’s a textbook case for the definition of stereotype. Department of Work and Pensions figures for 2005 clearly demonstrate how the largest category of people in poverty is that of homeowners, especially young first-time buyers.

The entire lending system in this country is going mad. People are offered credit cards after credit cards and loans after loans as they’re already in debt, while a new phenomenon is also setting in: the first generation of student loans zombies. Cue a dysfunctional housing system and we’re in for an explosive combination.

Official figures have shown that mortgage repossession orders during the past three months in England and Wales are skyrocketing: up 66% on a year ago! The figures show the total number of homeowners being taken to court by lenders pursuing mortgage debt rose 55% to nearly 30,000. That really is an appalling lot of people and it should make the news headlines. Except that the poor little sods called bank shareholders wouldn't be so happy about it.

Now according to some, blaming the lenders or the government is a lame exercise: people must take responsibility for their own actions rather than blame others and learn how to say no when the 14th credit card or umpteenth loan is being offered to you by an overenthusiastic Trish over the phone. Easily said, more so if you’re the “loaded” type. But how can you say no when you've gotta make ends meet and your mortgage or rent absorb all of your income?

There was a time when renting a council property was not considered the trampy plunge of today. Yet with the old Tory wish now fully into shape and social housing literally an under-funded, clogged up, and decaying last-resort, what are the other options?

The above-mentioned inflated private rents or living with parents before finding a place on the much touted property ladder. After all, isn’t it all so glamorous, with a Sarah Beeny here and a Phil Spencer there? Property Ladders and Location Locations? So, with mortgages being dished out left-right-and-centre, people enter the misleading path of their dream: “owning an asset”. Nevermind they may not be able to afford it, at worst, or may have no disposable income left, at best. And in the meantime banks and lenders make the fattest fortunes.

This government has preferred to encourage individuals to borrow instead, to fuel consumer spending and the economy. As the consumer credit levels reach their maximum, the harsh reality of this error is starting to show the cracks.

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