Halifax helps break the cycle

Amanda Jarvis

February 28, 2003

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) with the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has commissioned a project which aims to “identify, test and recommend home ownership solutions to facilitate housing market renewal in areas of low demand housing.”

The joint Halifax / CURS research will help the Government to identify the financial housing situations faced by residential property owners in the Pathfinder areas, understand lenders' exposure to low demand and to review potential financial tools to help both local residents. Halifax and the CML will actively work with other lenders in the mortgage industry to achieve the project's objectives.
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Commenting on the project won by the partnership with the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, Phil Jenks, head of mortgages at Halifax said:
“This is a vital project which will help us to understand how to offer solutions that are viable in the longer term to households in low demand areas. The project could
provide tangible options for those affected. The research will contribute to government policy in this area and aims to inform both government and the mortgage lending industry in general.”

The Government has recently emphasised its commitment to tackle low demand in its document “Sustainable communities: building for the future”. In this document the Government commits to investing £500 million in 9 pathfinder areas, where low demand is most acute. The ODPM currently estimates that, 1 million homes are in areas of low demand with 640,000 of these in private ownership.

Each Pathfinder area has a designated decision making body or Board working to address the issues of low demand with the aim of providing lasting solutions, through investment or innovation, for affected communities. Most Pathfinder Boards contain representatives from mortgage lenders to provide such support that the Pathfinder Board requires.

Each Pathfinder area is tasked with preparing a strategic plan, defining the priorities for action, the investment needed and how it can be delivered. The Pathfinder will then have to deliver the plan over the 15 to 20 year life of the project. The lessons learnt during this process will be shared with all interested parties. The intention behind the pathfinder approach is to ensure that a coherent strategy is produced and delivered across local authority boundaries.
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A recent example of the effort to address the effects of low demand is the 'Homeswaps' scheme run by Salford City Council. Halifax supports the scheme which aims to provide an opportunity for residents who want to remain in the private housing sector after their current home has been acquired for clearance purposes. The scheme will be reviewed as part of the research being undertaken by Halifax / CURS.

Notes to editors:
Halifax, part of the HBOS Group, is the UK's largest mortgage lender. HBOS is the market leader in the provision of mortgages with more than 2.8 million existing mortgages. HBOS lends approximately one in four new mortgages in the UK.

Halifax has the largest data sample of existing mortgages in the UK.

Halifax and the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (School of Public Policy, Birmingham University) will work in partnership to deliver the research commissioned by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

The ODPM published “Sustainable communities: building for the future” on February 5th, 2003. It is available from www.odpm.gov.uk/communities/plan/index.htm.

These figures are estimates based upon information provided by local authorities in their Housing Investment Strategies.

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The nine Pathfinder Areas are:
1. Birmingham and Sandwell
2. East Lancashire (Blackburn, Hyndburn, Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale)
3. Humberside (Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire)
4. Manchester and Salford
5. Merseyside (Liverpool, Sefton, and Wirral)
6. Newcastle and Gateshead
7. North Staffordshire (Stoke and Newcastle under Lyme)
8. Oldham & Rochdale
9. South Yorkshire (Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster)

The Birmingham / Sandwell and Rochdale / Oldham Pathfinder areas will work closely with Halifax and CURS throughout the research to act as a key reference point for the project.

Halifax currently represents the CML on the Executive Committees for both the Yorkshire and Humberside Housing Forum and the North West Regional Housing Forum.

Halifax is a member of the ODPM's Home Ownership Task Group (HOTG).

The Transport, Local Government and the Regions Select Committee recently (20 March 2002) published a report into empty homes, in which they said: “We received many moving letters from those trapped in areas of low demand. They did not prepare us for the desolation that we saw on our visit…..the rows of abandoned terraces, the broken windows and the burned out houses were shocking.”

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