Unity Homes and Enterprise has marked another successful year with the release of its annual report titled “Values Matter”. The 24-page document outlines some of the noteworthy achievements of the Leeds-based BME housing association over the past 12 months.

These accomplishments encompass the completion of 30 one and two-bedroom homes tailored for individuals aged 55 and above at Leopold Street in Chapeltown. This project is part of a larger £9.3 million development consisting of 63 homes in collaboration with Chapeltown Cohousing. Unity’s contribution to the scheme, which was a finalist for the Best Affordable Housing Development award at the Inside Housing Development Awards, includes Gertrude Paul Court. The court is named in tribute to Leeds’ first black teacher and was officially inaugurated by her daughter, Heather Paul.

In 2023, a £1.8 million refurbishment project at Leeds Media Centre was also successfully delivered. This was accomplished 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 non-profit subsidiary company. Together, they offer 142 affordable business units, accommodating over 80 diverse businesses employing more than 900 individuals. The revitalised building has introduced 12 new units and a tailored business hub.

Unity Enterprise has actively encouraged more women and girls to venture into entrepreneurship throughout the year. Their ‘Be Unstoppable’ programme provided expert guidance on refining a business concept, identifying a target audience, formulating a marketing strategy, and maximising the impact of social media. In collaboration with Fund Her North and the Yorkshire Asian Business Association, and with support from Leeds City Council’s Innovation@Leeds programme, ‘Fund Her Leeds’ extended focused assistance to selected female entrepreneurs, especially those from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. This support covered critical areas such as securing financing, preparing for growth, and creating effective pitch decks.

Unity Employment Services, dedicated to aiding Unity tenants and neighbouring communities in accessing employment and training opportunities, also had an exceptional year. The small team secured full-time and part-time employment for 198 local individuals and provided training for over 250 others. Additionally, they established avenues for 15 individuals to engage in unpaid volunteer work, often a stepping stone to formal employment. Impressively, the team achieved a 100% satisfaction rating in 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.”