'Repossession hot spot' map reveals homeowners most at risk of losing their houses

The areas of England in which families are most likely to lose their homes have been identified, after a homeless charity compiled a stark interactive map of repossession "hot spots".

Families living in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham are twice as likely as the average British person to have their homes repossessed, a study has revealed.

Research compiled by homeless charity Shelter found those living in the borough are at the highest risk of having their houses repossessed, closely followed by Knowsley in the North West and Thurrock in the East of England.

The charity has now constructed a map of repossession “hot spots”, and claimed to have revealed a “strong link” with rising unemployment.

Using official possession claims, recorded by the Ministry of Justice, Shelter found eight in every 1,000 homes in Barking and Dagenham were targeted last year.

[Related feature: What to do if you're at risk of repossession]

The figure is eight times the amount of possession claimed issued in West Dorset.

Other “hot spots” include an “almost unbroken band” across the north of England from Merseyside to Humberside, extending south to Derbyshire.

Other areas with a relatively high frequency of possession claims include Durham and Tyneside, Birmingham, Northampton, Wellingborough, Milton Keynes, East London and the Thames Estuary.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Most people think that repossession will never happen to them, but rising unemployment, rising living costs and high house prices mean that many people are living close to the edge already, and risk falling into a spiral of debt and repossession.

"The journey from being a homeowner to becoming homeless is frighteningly swift, with just one small thing like a wage cut, a health problem or a job loss meaning that a family can no longer meet their mortgage payments.

"When repossession happens, the impact on families is devastating - research shows people think repossession is worse than having to fight a child custody battle.

“Housing is the largest monthly cost for many homeowners, yet the affordability of housing is not getting the same government attention as the monthly costs of other essentials such as food or energy bills."

He said those struggling with mortgage arrears should contact their mortgage provider to avoid repossession and seek advice from bodies such as Shelter.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said: "By tackling the record deficit we inherited we've prevented the need for rapid rises in interest rates that would have put pressure on hard-working families, meaning repossessions are at their lowest level since 2007.

"But I'm determined that help is available to those facing the real and frightening prospect of losing their home. That's why I've given £19 million to councils so they can offer short-term loans to struggling homeowners, and over £3 million to the National Homelessness Advisory Service, run by Shelter and Citizens Advice, to ensure help is on hand to families when they need it most.

"Like Shelter, I would urge anyone struggling with their mortgage to seek early help, so that repossession is always the last resort."

[Related link: Get free mortgage advice]

Here are Shelter's repossession risk hotspot areas, with the number of possession claims made per 1,000 homes rounded to the nearest two decimal points:

1. Barking and Dagenham, London, 8.44

2. Knowsley, North West, 7.20

3. Thurrock, East of England, 6.51

4. Lewisham, London, 6.46

5. Rossendale, North West, 6.46

6. Rochdale, North West, 6.41

7. Blackburn with Darwen, North West, 6.16

8. Burnley, North West, 6.11

9. Newham, London, 6.07

10. Luton, East of England, 6.00

England average 3.50