MARTIN O'Neil, Lydia Lindsey-Clark and their three children, seen above, had been living in rented accommodation for five years before buying their first home in Farnborough with the help a housing scheme for key workers.

Martin, who works for the Sixth Form College in Farnborough, heard about the scheme when an announcement was made at the college. The couple had found it difficult to buy a local property because of ever-increasing house prices.

"We considered moving away from the area in order to be able to afford our own property, but at the same time I did not want to leave my job at the college and the kids were settled in school," said Martin.

The "Key Homes" scheme is run by Thames Valley Housing Association under the Starter Home Initiative. This is a Government funded programme, designed to enable key workers (police officers, teachers, nurses and other health workers) to buy homes in areas where high house prices prevent them from living in or near areas where they work.

Thames Valley Housing (TVH) received an allocation of £1.5 million for Rushmoor and Hart. The scheme provides a loan of approximately £20,000 - £30,000, which is repayable when you sell the property. It also offers shared ownership (you buy the proportion of the property that you can afford and pay rent to TVH on the remainder) depending on your situation. In both cases, you choose a property you like on the open market within reasonable travelling distance of your work.

So far 13 key workers in Rushmoor and Hart have been helped into home ownership through this scheme, including Martin and his family. They are now the proud owners of their own three-bedroom house in Farnborough.

To be eligible for the scheme, you need to work either in Rushmoor or Hart, must not already own a property, have a permanent contract of employment and have permanent UK residency.

Qualified teachers in compulsory education, NHS workers or police officers, can contact Thames Valley Housing on 020 8607 0628 or email keyhomes@tvha.co.uk to request an information pack.

Contact The Housing Corporation, South East Regional Office on 020 8253 1400 or www.housingcorp.gsx. gov.uk