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Leeds homeless charity marks milestone birthday by unveiling six-figure housing project

An award-winning charity that tackles homelessness and unemployment in Leeds by empowering people with self-help, has celebrated its 25th birthday with the official opening of its biggest retrofit project to date.
L-R Joshua Meek, Head of Impact and Sustainability at Unity; David Nugent, Chief Executive at Canopy Housing and Michael Wicks, R

Canopy Housing used a £380,000 loan from its longstanding banking partner, Unity Trust Bank, to buy an end-terrace property in Harehills and transform it into three energy efficient, low carbon, self-contained flats, including one with disabled access.

With responsibly sourced insulation, solar panels and double glazing, the three-storey building is a shining example of the sustainable and quality building practices expected from today’s housing solutions. The project also provided training and work experience for people looking to develop job-related skills.

Rosie Scurfield, Manager at Canopy, said: “Since launching in 1998, we now have 81 properties in our portfolio.

“It’s important to make social housing sustainable for a number of reasons.

“Firstly, if we don’t futureproof our properties over the next 10 to 15 years then we won’t have a business, as no one will want to live in homes if they aren’t of the highest standards.

“Secondly, at a time when many people are struggling with the cost of living, we need to ensure that our tenants can actually afford to heat their properties.

“And thirdly, in terms of climate resilience, every business needs to act in a more sustainable way. This is key to our core values of providing decent quality homes for people.”

Every year around 100 volunteers work with Canopy to renovate properties and turn them into safe, quality living spaces. Volunteers include new tenants, retirees, students, unemployed people and refugees and more than half of those helping are women.

Rosie said: “As well as providing affordable housing we’re also a friendly organisation with a focus on community and we have a waiting list for people wanting to volunteer with us.

“By demonstrating what a good home looks like, it helps people acquire new skills, build their confidence and enhance their CV. They enjoy a sense of achievement and feel part of the local community.”

More than 100 people attended the official opening in June, including Michael Wicks, Relationship Manager, and Joshua Meek, Head of Impact and Sustainability from Unity Trust Bank.

David Nugent, Chief Executive at Canopy, said: “Mike and the team have been incredibly supportive throughout this process. It is always a squeeze getting innovative projects like this over the line, so having a supportive banking partner like Unity who believe in what we are trying to do is crucial.”

Michael said: “We only lend to organisations that share our values and want to make a positive difference to local communities, so we are proud to have supported Canopy on a number of developments over the past decade.

“What is most impressive about this organisation is the deep connection it has with the local community. You can tell from talking to the volunteers how passionate they are about helping each other.”

Joshua added: “Canopy Housing is a leading example of how organisations can deliver social benefits to their communities in a way that also promotes sustainability and good low carbon practices.

“By providing low energy and quality homes to people at risk of homelessness, Canopy is demonstrating that working with the local community can build sustainable housing and create social impact for those who need it.”