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Unity Chair praised after winning Women in Housing Award

Shruti Bhargava, Chair of Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise, has been named Board/Committee Member of the Year at the Women in Housing Awards.

She received her award in Manchester at the opening ceremony of Housing 2023, the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference and Europe’s largest housing festival.

The Women in Housing Awards “celebrate the leaders, innovators and changemakers across the sector, championing the successes of women and sharing learning from teams and individuals within the housing sector.”

The Board/Committee Member of the Year Award is given to a female board or committee member “who has demonstrated outstanding effort and performance” over the past 12 months and “has made a very real difference.”

Ms Bhargava has been Unity Chair since 2015 and is due to step down from the role at the association’s Annual General Meeting later this year.

Cedric Boston, Unity Homes and Enterprise Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted that Shruti has won this major national award.

“She has provided transformational leadership to the association over a prolonged period when Unity has undergone many changes.

“Shruti has an unbreakable commitment to our social purpose to fight inequality and empower BME people to improve their lives by creating opportunities and helping to regenerate communities.

“She has made an exceptional contribution to Unity’s success story.”

Shruti Bhargava said: “I am surprised and honoured to have won this award.

“I would like to thank Ali Akbor who was alongside me as Unity CEO for six years, past and current Board members Rav Panesar and Andy Welsh, BME National Chair Cym D’Souza and Co-Chair of the Better Social Housing Review Steering Group Charlie Norman for their kind testimonials.

“My thanks also to everyone who has supported me over the years.

“I’m especially grateful to Unity Homes and Enterprise for giving me a purpose over the last nine years, particularly one that I feel a strong connection to.  I know I will be lucky to find that same level of synergy again.”

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Picture Shruti Bhargava receiving her Women in Housing Award from BBC News presenter Huw Edwards   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 over 1,350 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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