Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise is entering 2016 with a renewed determination to deliver affordable housing, regenerate local communities and help small businesses grow, its chief executive Ali Akbor has said.
Established in 1987 to address the needs of black and minority ethnic communities in the city, Unity’s initial focus was the Chapeltown area before extending to other parts of Leeds including Harehills, Beeston and Holbeck. It now manages almost 1,200 properties for tenants from all communities and ethnic backgrounds.
“In the last financial year we increased turnover by 6% to £5.6 million and invested more than £1.3 million in home improvements,” Mr Akbor said.
80 new houses were also completed and Unity is about to start building another 120 new homes on sites across Leeds, the largest construction programme in the organisation’s history.
But Mr Akbor – who also serves as Secretary/Treasurer of BME National – is keen to stress that Unity is not just about providing social housing.
“We want to create economically viable neighbourhoods,” he said.
“Our subsidiary company, Unity Enterprise, supports local entrepreneurial activity and operates three business hubs close to Leeds city centre. These include Unity Business Centre, which is now home to 80 businesses, and the Leeds Media Centre where local TV station Made in Leeds has its studios.”
Unity Employment Services (UES) has also been established to support Unity tenants and surrounding communities access employment and training. Last year UES helped 60 people into work, delivered accredited skills training to 61 others and enabled 20 to gain work experience.
“Unity works incredibly hard to provide support to as many individuals, families and businesses as we can,” Mr Akbor added. “We go into 2016 with vigour and the clear purpose of continuing to make a positive impact on people’s lives.”