HUNDREDS of cash-strapped families in the Portsmouth area are facing the misery of losing their homes, according to a report out today.
Figures released this morning show Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant are in the top 10 for repossession claims in the south east.
Housing experts said the statistics come as no surprise and are linked to unemployment and cuts to housing benefits.
The report by homelessness charity Shelter shows a total of 275 mortgage possession claims were made in Portsmouth in the financial year 2011/2012. A total of 155 were made in Havant and 110 in Gosport.
Fareham had 85 claims, with more affluent areas such as East Hampshire and Winchester coming at the bottom of the rankings in the south east with 55 claims.
The figures also show 180 mortgage possession orders were given out by the courts in Portsmouth last year.
A total of 375 orders were handed to landlords to evict tenants who had not paid rent.
Jane Herrington, a housing adviser at Advice Portsmouth in Kingston Crescent, said: ‘It does not really surprise me the statistics are going up. Locally it’s a reflection of the economic situation.
‘There’s also been a tremendous change in the benefits system.
‘Under the age of 35 there’s been a reduction in the amount of benefits that’s paid to people.
‘The benefit cuts are starting to bite now, together with people losing their jobs.
‘Certain wards in Portsmouth, Havant and Gosport are among the poorest in the country, so I am not surprised.’
Shelter ranked cities and towns based on the percentage of homes seeking repossession, with Milton Keynes coming out top in the south east.
The situation could be worse, however, as Portsmouth is ranked 99 out of 324 areas in England and Wales.
Jane Mercer, advice quality manager at Havant Citizens Advice Bureau, said a repossession claim did not have to result in a repossession order as payment plans can be negotiated.
She said: ‘It’s best to get advice very quickly so something can be done to avoid them getting evicted.’
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘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.’