There are plenty of scary figures in the latest forecast from the Council of Mortgage Lenders not least the expectation that half a million homeowners will fall into arrears.
The expectation that 75,000 homes will be repossessed by mortgage lenders is pretty scary too, especially as this in practice would mean more repossessions than in previous peak of 1991 when all repossessions are totalled up.
But for me the most disturbing prediction within the forecast is that residential property transaction will fall to 700,000. This is well below the shabby figure for this year and well below half the number one would expect in an average year.
For the house building industry, for estate agents, for the Treasury (that will lose stamp duty revenue) and for economy as a whole this is a most worrying figure.
In rough terms these figures mean the average house changes hands roughly once every 30 years.
Now I am all for stable communities, but in the modern economy people need to move, even if it is just down the road, as their circumstances change. They also need to be able to move to where there is suitable work. And they may well need to move as they get older and, for many, after their fledglings fly the coup.
The alternative is a very inefficient housing stock with the wrong people in the wrong homes.
Fewer home sales may not have been such a problem in the days when the greater proportion of people lived in rental accommodation. But in a housing market dominated by home ownership high levels of sales must take place so that people find themselves in the most suitable housing.
There already appears to be a politically uncomfortable (my words) correlation between high levels of home ownership and increased unemployment, as Monetary Policy Committee man of the moment David Blanchflower pointed out in a speech he made last year.
“Of the major industrial nations Spain has the highest unemployment and the highest rate of home ownership and Switzerland the lowest unemployment and the lowest rate of home ownership,” he said.
And he suggested that “higher home ownership raises unemployment, presumably because it reduces labour market mobility.”
Well, reduce the mobility further and this does not bode well for the economy at large given the upheaval already apparent in the jobs market.
Given the travails facing the economy, perhaps it may be wise for the Government to focus more on investing heavily in building high quality homes to rent than on the more politically sexy option of providing leg ups to those struggling yet eager to get on a collapsing housing ladder.
At the risk of sounding like a scratched record, now is the time to build homes.