Mark Leslie, 39, and wife Samantha, 34, live with their two children, Caleb and Lola-Mae, in a four-bedroom detached home on the Central Park development close to the centre of Darlington.

Mark works in nearby Newton Aycliffe, while Samantha is a full time carer to Caleb who is autistic with learning development delay and non-verbal.

They moved into their home back in May 2018 through the Rent to Buy scheme. Last year, in September 2020, they purchased 60% of the house through shared ownership, and pay rent on the remaining 40%. They have an option to acquire that remaining 40% stake when their circumstances allow.

Mark said: “Getting on the property ladder has been daunting these last few years. We were saving, but also spending £500 a month on rent to a private landlord. A colleague at work said he had been in the same position, and recommended looking at Rent to Buy. We realised we could rent at a reduced rate, and help to save for our deposit.”

Now the couple have converted to shared ownership, they feel they have an affordable route to owning the house outright.

Mark said: “This has helped us find a house we could be in for the rest of our lives. This house ticked most boxes – detached, bedrooms for the children, a garage and a big, safe garden. Caleb can sometimes be awake throughout the night, so we are at ease that he’s not keeping any neighbours awake.

“We’ve been married 10 years, we have the children, so we knew what we wanted – and now we have that. I do think this scheme will help a lot of people – those people who have a 5% deposit, but they can’t just go out and buy the house they really need.”

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