Limiting Possessions? Managing Mortgage Arrears in a New Era

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Over the last 30 years the UK has seen a structural increase in mortgage default, interacting with cyclical economic trends to provide peaks and troughs of default. The latest upturn in mortgage arrears, from 2004, has been exacerbated by recessionary pressures since 2006. Despite significant exposure to risk and a distinct configuration to the current recession, lenders initial responses in 2006 and 2007 to managing arrears were limited and unchanged from the 1990s. This paper explores the extent to which such practices then changed, why and with what consequences. The paper identifies a shift in lenders’ responses to mortgage arrears and possessions from ‘pay or possess’ to more ‘managed forbearance’. It explores the ways in which commercial considerations, housing market drivers, a more stringent regulatory environment and government intervention have influenced this change resulting in a slower than expected growth in possessions. The paper considers the contingent nature of these changes and the implication for the longer-term sustainability of homeownership. The paper is based upon a qualitative study of lenders’ and government agencies’ responses to the current market downturn. The paper has a UK focus, but, in the context of global recession and significant homeownership markets in many developed countries, the issue of mortgage default and its management may resonate beyond the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-154
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Housing Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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