FIFTEEN percent more Chester homeowners faced losing their homes last year than in 2005.

In 2005, 539 repossession orders were processed by the county court but in 2006 the figure rose to 620 for the city.

Those subject to the orders face the threat of losing their homes, after falling behind on their mortgage payments.

Shelter's North West regional manager Sallie Bridgen said: 'Sk y-high prices created by a chronic shortage of housing are forcing more families to overstretch themselves to get on the property ladder.

'The Government must strengthen the safety net for those who struggle to keep up with their mortgage and commit to building more social homes.'

According to the Chester City Council 2005 Housing Needs Survey, the average price in the city for terraced housing was £135,485, which would require an annual income of £45,000.

Only 12% of Chester's population earn over £27,300, which is the national average.

The Citizens' Advice Bureau in Chester has had to deal with repossession orders on properties valued up to £500,000 and can deal with an average of 30 clients referred to county court per week.

The CAB liaise between clients and the County Court Judge to try to reach practical settlements.

Linda Green Chester CAB Money Advice Coordinator explained: 'We offer advice for people with repossession orders. The quicker the clients come to us before their case appears in court the more time we have got to help and explore more options.

'There is always hope. There are more people keeping their houses than not.'

* Anyone struggling with the cost of their mortgage or with any other housing problem should go to or call their free housing advice line on 0808 800 4444.