Friday, August 1, 2008

Credit crunch forces evicted family of four to live in a car

A desperate family with a baby on the way are living in their car after their home was repossessed because they couldn't afford rocketing mortgage repayments.  
Laura Whitney, aged 28, who is four-months pregnant and her partner Richard Webster, 32, have spent the last two weeks crammed in their family saloon with children Jessica, seven, and Jack, two.
The couple became the latest victims of Britain's credit crunch when they could no longer afford to pay their £62,500 mortgage.
The family could no longer pay their mortgage, which has an interest rate of 10.9 per cent, when their sub-prime lender increased payments from £373 a month to £553.  
They were forced from their maisonette at Batemoor, Sheffield, and moved straight into their V-reg Vauxhall Vextra.
Laura claims her family had not been given priority for rehousing by the local council because they were deemed 'intentionally homeless'.  
They were turned down for private-rented housing because the repossession gave them a bad credit rating.  
The couple met in 2005 after the break up of their previous relationships and rented a cottage together until they bought their two bedroom home in August 2006 for £67,000 after their family gave them £5,000 for the deposit.
They had to take a sub-prime mortgage because Laura was on her previous husband's mortgage and she would have been forced to pay a fee to have her name removed. Richard had a previous credit problem.  
Increasing payments strained the family budget and in December, Laura and Richard had to choose between a mortgage payment and buying Christmas presents for their children.  
Laura's former husband agreed to lend them the money for a month's installment, while she contacted the Citizens' Advice Bureau who advised her to ask for an interest-only mortgage.  
It took two further months for the mortgage provider to respond and they refused the request.
The couple had run up more arrears and their home was repossessed last month after a court gave them 28 days to pay off their six months arrears or leave.
Laura said: 'We've been living in the car for two weeks because relatives can't accommodate us all and we don't want to be split up or move into a bed and breakfast.
' We are making do with tinned food and we drive to different relatives houses. They let us use their facilities, we can have a bath or shower and we wash our clothes and the children sometimes have a bed to sleep in.
'All we need is a home. We're willing to pay full rent and don't want a council tax rebate.
'Richard works full time as a driver for Royal Mail. I was managing a card shop until recently and I will be happy to work again. ' 
In the meantime, their furniture is in storage, at a cost of £120 a month.
Richard said: 'Sheffield Council offered us temporary accommodation but because I am working we have to find pay £130 a week, which we cannot afford. 
'They don't want to help us when we need it most. We are not scroungers. We've always worked, we don't smoke, we have only been out twice in the last year and we don't want anything for nothing.'
Sheffield Council leader Councillor Paul Scriven said housing officials told him the family was not given priority because staff were not aware they were living in a car.  
He added: 'Clearly, this is very serious and I have instructed the case to be reviewed.
'If the family's situation is confirmed, they will automatically be suitable for temporary accommodation.'

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