No debate at the SNP conference in Aberdeen was more arresting, urgent or shocking than conversations beforehand with shell-shocked friends who are facing the real prospect of repossession because of soaring mortgage rates.

One couple with a young daughter is buying a new, bigger home. Their “guaranteed” deal has been withdrawn and repayments are now at six not two per cent. If they opt to stay and renew their existing mortgage next March, they’ll face the same deal – or worse. Caught betwixt and between – very suddenly.

These are folk with decent jobs whose “mistake” was taking the biggest possible mortgage encouraged by low, low interest rates. Now, they’re facing a nightmare, talking with neighbours in their leafy suburb about the prospect of repossession and realising there’s nowhere to go if they have to hand back the keys.

During the 1980s negative equity crash, a far higher proportion of the Scottish population (including their own parents) lived in council housing and was thus immune. But Scots with the largest socially rented sector in Europe were encouraged to join Britain’s property owner democracy, and finally reached the UK average in 2003. Back then, house price inflation made ownership look sensible. Low interest rates made maxing out the mortgage look as safe as houses. Which means many families were up to their ears in debt before Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng tanked the pound, interest rates jumped, 40 per cent of mortgages were withdrawn and the average monthly repayment leapt from £630 to £1,100 (according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.)

Another friend’s daughter was on the brink of buying a flat and had managed to lock in an affordable deal. But after Black mini-budget Friday, the seller pulled out because the mortgage deal on his prospective new home was cancelled and he decided to stay put. Now her low-interest deal has also been withdrawn and she faces doubled monthly repayments on any new home.

Bit by bit, deal by deal, housing chains are falling apart. House-building has ground to a halt with contractors and sub-contractors being laid off and that’s adding to the number of families whose mortgage repayments are suddenly completely unaffordable. But where’s the fuss?

There’s likely to be a blizzard of mortgage defaulting and home repossessions this winter and in early spring. So why were the alarm bells not being sounded at the SNP, Tory or Labour party conferences?

Sure, the prospect of energy blackouts is scary, as the panic-buying of candles attests. But folk will struggle through somehow – even if it means visiting heat-banks, wearing bunnets and extra layers indoors, hot-water bottles galore and heating just one room. You can put on a coat. But you can’t put on a house. And yet, the impending disaster of repossessions hasn’t featured in any debate I’ve heard at the SNP conference.

Why not? Was the agenda set before the UK Government tanked the pound? Are folk who can afford SNP conference also likely to have paid off their mortgages? Is the prospect of default – when fixed rate deals end next spring – still a bit too distant? Do personality and identity politics so completely dominate politics that young journalists and conference organisers – themselves at the centre of the housing maelstrom – are buckling down and skilfully pinning blame for the crisis on Liz Truss instead of trying to get fellow delegates to address it?

The public already blames the Tories. Despite attempts by senior Conservative ministers to blame global pressures, only 24% of voters in the latest YouGov poll buy that. More than half – 52% – blame the UK Government. No wonder. As Liz Truss made her keynote speech in Birmingham, the average interest rate for a two-year fixed rate mortgage breached the 6% barrier for the first time since 2008. How tempting to just leave it there – all the Conservatives’ fault. And it very largely is.

But that could apply to every other situation which has prompted mitigation by the Scottish Government and sympathetic publicity. Where is the outcry? Support for mortgage payers in difficulty is almost non-existent in Britain. Folk in working age households must have been on Universal Credit for nine months previously, with no additional income over that period. Meanwhile, housing benefits have been frozen at September 2019 levels, so that renters are at risk along with people in shared equity arrangements – now facing a double whammy as rents soar across the country.

Not, of course, in Scotland. At least, not yet. But the emergency rent freeze, enacted last week by MSPs, takes effect after 2022 rents in the social rented sector have been set and ends next March before they’re due to rise again, prompting calls for a two-year rent freeze and evictions ban.

But that would be a serious blow for housing associations whose rents are half the levels charged in the private sector. According to the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, a rent freeze in the social sector would put new affordable housebuilding at risk along with energy efficiency improvements to existing stock. It is a perfect storm.

But governments are here to help folk weather storms – otherwise why pay taxes? Has green, affordable housing suddenly become a luxury item on a wish-list drawn up in a bygone era when public policy wasn’t about finding quick fixes and changing the subject? Conference motions about retrofitting draughty, cold and damp homes now seem slightly unreal – part of an old political agenda, quietly upended by financial meltdown.

Yet hoping the housing market will sort itself is beyond naïve. Without help, tens of thousands of families at every point on the income scale will face eviction, repossession, disruption and even greater reliance on public assistance. Already someone becomes homeless every 20 minutes in Scotland – homeless youngsters are three times more likely to experience mental health problems. We can’t let this get worse.

Tackling a broken housing finance market may seem daunting for politicians in a devolved parliament without fiscal policy levers. But what other government will even try?

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