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New affordable housing scheme named after celebrated Leeds teacher

Heather Paul, daughter of Gertrude Paul – the first black teacher in Leeds and a founder member of Leeds West Indian Carnival – has joined the leader and chief executive of Leeds City Council, tenants and project partners at the opening of a new affordable housing development named in honour of her mother.

Gertrude Paul Court, containing 24 flats, is the larger of two blocks of an innovative Unity Homes and Enterprise scheme comprising 30 one and two bedroomed homes for people aged 55 and over.

Heather unveiled a specially commissioned artwork celebrating her mother’s legacy created by local community artist Marcus ‘Hyro’ Browne which will be permanently on display inside the building.

The Unity scheme is part of a wider £9.3 million development of 63 affordable homes on the site at Leopold Street in Chapeltown previously owned by Leeds City Council.

The remainder of the properties form a brand new cohousing community, Chapeltown Cohousing, which was recently showcased in a BBC documentary.

Homes England provided £1.4 million in grant support to the project with the Housing Infrastructure Fund allocating £1.34 million.

Addressing the large gathering of guests at the celebratory event, Heather Paul said:

“Thanks to Unity, in partnership with Chapeltown Cohousing, for creating such a wonderful overall development in the area.

“Particular thanks and gratitude for naming this block after my late mother.

“It is a phenomenal legacy for the community, but also for us as a family.

“It is a great tribute.  Her story carries on, her memory carries on and her impact carries on intergenerationally.

“Although she was my mother, I know she was an incredible woman of many talents who touched many people in her time. A woman of many firsts.”

Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council said:

“Providing decent housing for people is one of the biggest issues we face as a Council.

“I am so pleased that we’re able to work with Unity.  It is such a great project to come and see and to have yet more quality housing in Leeds.”

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, said:

“I was always struck by Gertrude Paul’s story which Heather has kept going with her work in advocating for those positive role models from the black community who have helped to build the city.

“That is why naming the building after Gertrude is so appropriate.”

Shruti Bhargava, Unity Homes and Enterprise chair, after thanking the speakers and project partners, said:

“I am so excited to be here because I remember when this was just a muddy field.

“It took years for the building work to begin before Cllr Eileen Taylor, then Lord Mayor of Leeds, laid the first stone in 2019 – and now here we are.

“It is fantastic.”

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Unity Homes and Enterprise 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.  Alongside two schemes in Huddersfield, a new affordable housing development has recently been completed in Cleckheaton.  With a turnover of £6.8 million and an annual investment in new and existing homes of around £6.5 million, Unity now manages more than 1,300 properties for tenants from all communities and ethnic backgrounds. In 2000 the association established its not-for-profit subsidiary company, Unity Enterprise, to support local entrepreneurial activity.  It now provides 142 affordable business units for more than 80 diverse businesses across three centres in Leeds. Unity Employment Services (UES) was set-up in 2011 to support Unity tenants and their surrounding communities in accessing employment and training opportunities.  It has since supported more than 1,700 individuals into work and training.

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