THE 'Help to Buy' scheme - to allow people to beat high prices and get on the housing ladder - got off to a strong start in the North-East, new figures show.

But take-up has been much slower in North Yorkshire – where some districts failed to record a single buyer in the first nine months of the programme.

In total, 789 households across the region took out an equity loan to help them buy a new-build property, between April and December last year.

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They have been attracted by the ability to borrow up to 20 per cent of the purchase price, provided a five per cent deposit is paid down.

No interest has to be paid for the first five years - and the loan can be paid back on the sale of the property.

In the North-East, County Durham is leading the way with 167 loans, followed by Stockton-on-Tees (131), Gateshead (96), Sunderland (81), Newcastle (79) and Redcar and Cleveland (58).

But only ten loans were delivered in Darlington, just 13 in Hambleton, two in Harrogate and none at all in Richmondshire and Craven.

Because it is available for new-build properties only, it also shines a light on where much-needed housebuilding is taking place.

However, the figures cover only the equity loan part of Help to Buy - not the far more controversial scheme which offers lenders a taxpayer-backed guarantee to encourage mortgage loans.

It is that £130bn scheme, for existing properties as well, which has been criticised for risking a fresh housing bubble, by encouraging demand without boosting housing supply.

The equity loan figures suggest the scheme will be far more successful than the ‘NewBuy’ initiative, which allowed deposits of just five per cent, but offered no equity loan.

Across the North-East and North Yorkshire, NewBuy delivered only 357 mortgages in the first 15 months of the scheme, through to June last year.

Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, said: “We’re now seeing buyers returning to the market in droves and new homes being built across the country.

“Both buying and building are at their highest levels since 2007, underpinned by our action to cut the deficit and keep interest rates low. But there’s still more to do.”

The DCLG said the average price of a property bought was £184,000 and 89 per cent of completed sales were by first time buyers.

Across the country, there were 14,823 completed sales and a further 25,247 reservations were made.

Yesterday, figures showed that home ownership in England has fallen to its lowest level since 1987 – because of high house prices and a squeeze on mortgages.