Home repossessions in some northern areas, including Chester, are running at more than three times the national average amid a regional gulf in fortunes.
Chester has the highest number of repossessed homes in England and Wales, with 53 in 10,000 houses taken over by banks, compared with the national average of 15 in 10,000, research by e.surv chartered surveyors found.
In the second half of last year, the worst-affected areas were the North East, parts of Yorkshire and towns in the M62 corridor.
In Darlington and Durham, the number of repossessions was 60 per cent higher than the national average, with industrial Lancashire and Yorkshire towns such as Bradford and Doncaster also high on the list.
In contrast, Oxfordshire saw only 12 homes in 10,000 repossessed, 20 per cent below the national average, and numbers were also low in the Cotswolds, the West Midlands, the West Country, and the southern coast of England.
Weak economic growth and austerity are blamed for the regional divide, with people in the north being more affected by Government cuts due to dependency on public sector employment, and a larger proportion of southerners working in the private sector.
Richard Sexton, business development director of e.surv, said: “Spending cuts, negative wage growth, falling house prices and public sector unemployment have hit the north harder than the south. This has opened up a gaping geographical divide in repossession levels.”
Clusters of affluent retired people have helped some areas in the north buck the trend, with only one home in 10,000 repossessed in Galashiels.
Harrogate in North Yorkshire – an area with affluent pensioners – had only 11 repossessions per 10,000 households, a low number despite being surrounded by more deprived postcodes.
Mr Sexton added: “Repossession levels can vary wildly within a confined geographical space thanks to local disparities in affluence and employment rates.”