A LIFELINE has been offered to cash-strapped homeowners in Darlington who face the heartbreaking prospect of repossession.

Members of Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet have agreed to take part in the mortgage rescue scheme, Time2Buy.

The council has joined the scheme, which operates across Tees Valley and County Durham and is aimed at homeowners who have been unable to meet their mortgage repayments and face homelessness as a result of repossession.

Under the scheme, local authorities can buy homes at risk of repossession using funds from the Homes and Communities Agency and rent them back to householders, ensuring people are able to remain in their homes.

Residents making use of the scheme will be offered fixed three-year tenancies.

At a meeting last week, a report from director of place, Richard Alty, said participation in the scheme would be of benefit to at-risk households, while increasing the council’s housing stock would provide more affordable housing in Darlington.

The report read: “Once a property is identified as being suitable, a referral is made to Time2Buy.

“The property is then circulated for expressions of interest and providers will agree who is most appropriate if more than one [registered provider] registers an interest.

“No formal consultation has taken place, but feedback from customers who have been through the mortgage rescue process to date is positive.”

Nationally, funding of £6.65m has been set aside for the scheme from 2012 to 2014, the equivalent of 150 rescues.

The property value cap is £125,000 in the North-East, although permission can be sought for a more expensive property in certain cases.

Time2Buy covers the legal fees of both parties in rescue deals.

Councillor Veronica Copeland, cabinet member responsible for housing, said: “This is to be welcomed, as hopefully it will stop people losing their houses and being made homeless and going on our [housing] waiting list.”

Members agreed to the recommendations in the report, although not before council leader Bill Dixon had sounded a note of caution, saying: “These schemes have a habit of being announced and then not working.”