Time to reflect
"I am as proud of our roots as I am of our achievements and successes over the last 70 years."
Professor Jeffrey Knight, emh group Chair
As CIH celebrates its 100th anniversary and emh group its 70th, chair and Emeritus Professor of De Montfort University Jeffrey Knight reflects on a few of the milestones along the way and the relationship between the two organisations.
This year, emh group celebrates the 70th anniversary of its foundation in 1946 as East Midlands Housing Association (EMHA). Starting out in a shed in the heart of Thringstone near Coalville, Leicestershire, to build homes for homeless ex-servicemen returning from WW2 and their families, EMHA has diversified and grown over the last seven decades into emh group and has become one of the largest providers of affordable housing and care and support services in the East Midlands.
In February 1948 the Minister of Works, Charles Key, opened EMHA’s first development at Booth Road in Thringstone, Leicestershire. At the opening he commented on how pleased he was to see that EMHA had made a real attempt to provide housewives with "every facility." Even then we were forging new standards. The Minister also stated that the government’s house-building target for the next ten years was some six million homes and that in all probability subsidies would "fade out" in June that year. Nothing changes!
The Leicestershire development was quickly followed by others in Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. Over the next 40 years EMHA was at the vanguard of progress within the social housing sector, advancing with a range of activities that included urban area renewal and a range of accommodation for the elderly. From 1952 to 1974 we built 2,000 houses for owner-occupation and in 1980 we began our first shared ownership scheme. We also established Midlands Rural Housing in 1997 to promote and enable the provision of homes in rural areas to meet identified local needs.
The twelve years from 2004 onwards brought momentous change under the leadership of new chief executive Chan Kataria. A group structure was formed in 2008 to absorb two more housing associations, including one stock transfer, with another stock transfer joining the group in 2011. Two years later an established care and support organisation, Enable, joined the group and the four housing associations amalgamated into one, emh homes.
The icing on the cake for our 70th anniversary year has been the recognition we have received from our peers. In the last year emh group has won the UK Housing Award for 'outstanding development programme of the year' and has been named 'apprentice employer of the year' at the Leicester Mercury Business Awards, while the emh green team was named 'housing association of the year' at the National Green Deal and Eco Awards.
Despite our diversification and growth over the years, we have retained strong roots in the community in which we first started. One of our regeneration projects was part of North West Leicestershire District Council’s 'Building confidence in Coalville' project and set the benchmark for future regeneration projects in the town, while the rejuvenation of a former Fox Inn in Thringstone was within a stone’s throw of the first homes we built in 1946. I am as proud of our roots as I am of our achievements and successes over the last 70 years.
Our journey with CIH
I would like to acknowledge that strong partnerships have been the backbone of our journey and it is quite significant that, in its centenary year, CIH is as much part of our growth today as it has ever been. Along the way we have worked on a number of joint projects with CIH - including 'Learning today, leading tomorrow' - as it continues to play a leading role in building skills and nurturing future talent.
It is fitting that our latest contribution to the CIH project 'Working together' - to be launched at its annual conference in Manchester - seeks to challenge how we engage with our residents. After all, that is who we are here for.