AS someone with a young family who needed the combination of savings, support from grandparents and Help to Buy to get on the property ladder, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to save enough money for a deposit to buy your own home.

That is why I was so interested to see Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick in County Durham last week to launch the Government’s First Home pilot scheme, which aims to make it at least 30 per cent cheaper for local people to buy their first home.

Raising a deposit remains the number one obstacle when it comes to making the dream of buying a home a reality – and it’s got a lot harder for many people over the past year.

We’ve had the perfect storm. We’ve seen a huge increase in people’s desire to buy or move home, partly due to major changes to the way people live and work because of the Covid-19 pandemic, partly due to the stamp duty holiday, and partly due to the continued strong aspirations of many to own their own home. This, combined with the ongoing shortage of properties for sale, has driven large increases in house prices at a time when the pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on people’s incomes. Therefore, we desperately is a longer-term strategic approach to keeping housing affordable.

So the pilot that Mr Jenrick launched in Newton Aycliffe, only the third of its kind in the country, is welcome.

The real beauty of this initiative is that it addresses not just the short-term needs of first-time buyers, but the longer term too. Under the First Home scheme, a property is sold at a discount of at least 30 per cent from the market value. However, when it comes back onto the market, it will be independently valued and the same 30 per cent discount will be passed on to the next first-time buyer.

To make it as effective as possible in each part of the country, local authorities will determine which potential buyers are prioritised for the scheme. Those local decisions will be based on the needs of the community, with particular focus on key workers and young families.

It is innovative, thoughtful, proactive and – all importantly – sustainable, ensuring that we start building a stock of affordable properties across the country.

That’s a big deal, and so it was good to see Mr Jenrick unveil the first 12 cut-price houses on the Elder Gardens development.

It is particularly exciting for us at Darlington Building Society because we have been working in close partnership with the Government and Homes England in recent months as one of a select number of lenders taking part in piloting the scheme.

Helping people onto the property ladder goes back to the core purpose of Darlington Building Society from its foundation as the Darlington Working Men’s Equitable Permanent Building Society in 1856. It is what we have done throughout our history, and we are proud to have had a voice in shaping a flagship scheme that we view as an important step in the right direction.

• Darren Ditchburn is Chief Customer Officer for Darlington Building Society.