A LEEDS-based housing association has been praised by the city’s Lord Mayor for its efforts to create “strong and vibrant communities” over more than three decades.
Speaking at the Unity Homes & Enterprise Annual General Meeting, Cllr Eileen Taylor told guests she had worked closely with the association as a local ward member.
She said: “Unity has led the way by realising very early on that creating a sustainable neighbourhood is about more than just affordable housing.
“I have witnessed the excellent work that Unity has contributed towards creating strong and vibrant communities. They provide for very deprived areas in Leeds and further afield. It is no surprise that, with over 30 years of knowledge and collective experience, it is regarded as one of the country’s most successful BME-led housing associations.”
Delivering his annual report, Unity Chief Executive Ali Akbor described the last 12 months as the association’s “best ever year.”
He said: “We have had our governance and financial viability ratings upgraded to the highest possible levels by the Regulator of Social Housing.
“We are halfway through the most ambitious development programme in our history to deliver 220 new homes by 2021. Unity Employment Services helped 119 people into jobs, 179 to improve their skills and employability through training and 24 people to find voluntary work. And Unity Enterprise, our not-for-profit subsidiary, generated a financial surplus which will be used to further improve facilities and services at our three business centres.”
Akbor said the association had much to look forward to in the year ahead, but warned that it would be operating in a vacuum of “deep uncertainty on societal and public policy levels.”
He told the meeting: “The ongoing Brexit mess is affecting every local community in this country, and the neighbourhoods whose interests we serve are clearly no exception. It is now more than a year since the Social Housing Green Paper was published but, with a minority Government in place, there seems little chance that follow-up legislation will be enacted any time soon. It is not a great legacy for the Grenfell victims.
“We face the prospect of a General Election, a second EU referendum or both in the months ahead. And with weeks to go until the 31 October Brexit deadline, we still have no idea if the UK will leave the European Union – never mind what lies ahead on 1 November if we do.”
He pledged: “What I can say for certain is that, whatever happens, Unity will remain loyal to our partners, tenants and our communities. Our dedication and our professionalism will always shine through in every situation that confronts us. We are motivated by providing housing choice, improving people’s lives and addressing inequalities. And our mission is to use our energies, skills and services to grow sustainable communities. Nothing will ever distract us from that task.”
Unity Housing Association was formed in 1987 with the objective of building a strong, BME-led, community housing association to address the needs of black and minority ethnic communities in Leeds.
The initial focus was on Chapeltown, but this has widened to other areas of the city including Harehills, Beeston, Holbeck, Chapel Allerton and Pudsey.