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Mortgage article 6:CML survey sheds new light on household debt

Wednesday 22 May 2002

Few borrowers say they find it hard to meet debt payments - even though people in the UK now owe a record amount in relation to their income - according to a study of how households are coping with mortgage debt, published today in the latest issue of the CML's Housing Finance. But households with low levels of savings are more likely to have debts that consume a high proportion of their income, and may therefore be particularly vulnerable to a loss of earnings.

But while some borrowers appear to be relying heavily on the Government's handling of the economy, others are taking steps to help protect themselves. One important conclusion from the article, therefore, is that, over the next two years, households are looking to reduce, rather than increase, their level of debt overall. And there are other measures that borrowers should consider, like taking out insurance to cover their mortgage payments.

The article, based on the responses of 3,391 adults to the CML's annual housing finance survey, shows that mortgage borrowers are much more likely than other households to have other loans, finance deals and credit arrangements. But that is not surprising: their age, income and other characteristics mean that they are likely to see access to finance in various forms as a useful, necessary or desirable way of funding lifestyle choices. Meanwhile, suppliers of financial products generally view mortgage borrowers as an attractive lending and credit proposition.

This can mean that some mortgage borrowers have complex financial arrangements to handle. But few people reported problems in meeting debts, and mortgage arrears and possessions continue to fall following a decade of decline. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, coping with debt is closely related to how much take-home pay it consumes, and debts other than mortgages play a significant in the overall debt burden on households. There are no major clusters of households with debt problems, the article says, but the survey found that those from lower social grades and with lower incomes were the most likely to struggle with debt.

The CML's Director General Michael Coogan commented: Next page


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