Home owners buckle under debt burden

By Alex Arnold
Updated November 5 2012 - 7:49pm, first published May 8 2009 - 11:00am

Illawarra mortgagees are losing their properties at the rate of one a week.And another two every week are being warned they are on the brink.Figures provided by the Sheriff's Office reveal the number of Supreme Court writs of possession issued in the Illawarra last year jumped to 162. That represents a 25 per cent increase on the previous year.The statistics also show the stress that developed in the mortgage-belt suburbs such as Albion Park and Dapto.The number of writs issued in Albion Park's 2527 postcode jumped from 11 in 2007 to 25 last year, while the 2530 postcode which takes in Dapto, Haywards Bay and Horsley rose from 14 to 24. The number of writs issued in the Kiama area jumped from three in 2007 to 18 in 2008 (see breakout).The figures also show a shift in the writs issued from the Illawarra's north to the south.In 2007 it was Wollongong (22) and the suburbs with a 2518 postcode, Bellambi and Corrimal (17), which topped the list.Repossession applications included family homes, investment properties, vacant land and commercial properties, but didn't always result in repossession.According to the Sheriff's Office a total of 53 of the 162 were "executed" in the Illawarra last year.And it is not just home owners who face eviction, as tenants can also find themselves caught between a property owner and lender.Interest rates rose to their highest levels in more than 11 years in March last year but since September the Reserve Bank's official cash rate has dropped from 7.25 per cent to 3 per cent.Although the interest rate cut has provided relief, concerns have now turned to job security.The Illawarra's unemployment rate, which takes in Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama, had risen to 9.1 per cent in March this year.Simon Howard, solicitor with the Illawarra Legal Centre, said the centre had seen an increase in inquiries about termination of employment covering redundancy, entitlements and unfair dismissal."Casual workers are the most vulnerable in this current climate and they are contacting the legal centre with questions about their rights and entitlement," he said."Our concern is that those who are losing their paid employment may in turn lose their home if they are unable to meet their mortgage repayments or face other hardships as a result of losing a steady income. "We urge anyone in this situation to get sound advice early on to limit their debts and find necessary social supports."

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