The 24-page document, titled Values Matter, details some of the Leeds-based BME housing association’s biggest achievements over the past 12 months.
They include the completion of 30 one and two bedroomed homes for people aged 55 and over at Leopold Street in Chapeltown, part of a larger £9.3mn development of 63 homes in collaboration with Chapeltown Cohousing. Unity’s element of the scheme – which was shortlisted for Best Affordable Housing Development at the Inside Housing Development Awards – includes Gertrude Paul Court, named in honour of the first black teacher in Leeds and officially opened by her daughter Heather Paul.
2023 also saw the delivery of a £1.8mn refurbishment project at Leeds Media Centre in partnership with Leeds City Council and the European Regional Development Fund. Leeds Media Centre is one of three business locations operated by Unity Enterprise, Unity’s not-for-profit subsidiary company, which collectively provide 142 affordable business units for over 80 diverse businesses employing more than 900 people. The refurbished building has created 12 new units and a bespoke business hub.
Unity Enterprise has been particularly active throughout the year in encouraging more women and girls to become their own bosses. Its ‘Be Unstoppable’ programme offered expert guidance on developing a business idea, identifying a target audience, devising a marketing strategy and achieving maximum impact from the use of social media. In partnership with Fund Her North and the Yorkshire Asian Business Association with support from Leeds City Council’s Innovation@Leeds programme, ‘Fund Her Leeds’ provided focussed support for selected female entrepreneurs – particularly those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds – in key areas including access to finance, readiness for growth and pitch deck preparation.
Unity Employment Services, which helps Unity tenants and surrounding communities to access employment and training opportunities, also enjoyed a first-class year. The small team found full-time and part-time work for 198 local people and delivered training for more than 250 others. In addition, they created pathways for 15 people to do unpaid volunteering work, which is often a route into employment. Remarkably, the team achieved a 100% satisfaction rate from customer surveys.
Cedric Boston, Unity Homes and Enterprise Chief Executive, said: “We are extremely proud of our achievements over the past 12 months, which have also seen changes at board and senior management levels.
“We said goodbye to Shruti Bhargava, who stepped down after eight years as Chair of Unity Homes and Enterprise, and were thrilled when she was deservedly named Board/Committee Member of the Year at the Women in Housing Awards. The process to appoint her replacement begins shortly and I know there will be considerable competition for the role.
“We were excited to welcome Sharon Jandu as Chair of Unity Enterprise and Katherine Proctor as Director of Housing Operations. Both have already made really positive contributions and will ensure we are well set for continued success in these areas of our work.”
Ann Marie Matson, Unity Homes and Enterprise Resources Director, said: “The cost-of-living crisis has been a challenge for many housing associations and Unity is no exception. However, I am pleased to report that we have again put in a robust financial performance which has allowed us to invest more than £800,000 in our property portfolio.
“Despite increasing prices, difficulties in sourcing materials and a shortage of suitably skilled labour, tenants in 170 Unity properties benefitted from new energy efficient heating systems, kitchens, bathrooms, windows and doors. We expect many more tenants to see upgrades to their homes in the year ahead.”