THE dream of owning your own property in County Durham is becoming a nightmare for many low-income families, according to new research.

Investigations by Citizens Advice County Durham published in a new national report, revealed that people are spiralling into debt as they struggle to retain and maintain their homes due to a combination of health issues, unemployment, zero-hour contracts, stagnating house prices, and costly repairs.

In the report, Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Housing Crisis, the charity calls for the myth that owner-occupation is best for all to be debunked and says the UK needs a housing debate which looks beyond getting people onto the property ladder and involves everyone from local councils to builders, MPs and landlords.

The charity say that while for many people buying their own home is a positive decision, for thousands of people in County Durham the ‘nest egg’ is becoming a millstone around their necks.

Neil Bradbury, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice County Durham, said: “The myth that owner occupation is the most appropriate option for all, or that homeowners are somehow immune from housing hardship, must be debunked.

“For some County Durham residents, the dream of home-ownership has turned into a nightmare, with ever mounting mortgage arrears and other debts leading to an inability to retain and maintain their homes.

“The debate about housing in England needs to move beyond people trying to buy their own home.

“From dodgy landlords to high house prices, rip-off agency fees and planning restrictions, these all need to be considered as part of the bigger housing picture.”

Last year Citizens Advice County Durham helped with 2,093 housing problems.

Mr Bradbury said the first major problem faced by homeowners was the struggle to keep their homes if they fell in mortgage arrears due to health problems, redundancy, unemployment and zero-hour contracts.

The second key issue was repairs with all but one of the participants’ homes taking part in the study in urgent need of maintenance.

Mr Bradbury added: “We feel that housing policy, across the national, regional and local scales, should better reflect the needs of struggling homeowners.

“Our research has also highlighted the need for Government to commit to building more secure homes across all tenures, both owner-occupied and privately and socially rented.

“When compared to the safety nets available for social renters, owner-occupiers are left vulnerable.”

To read the full report visit