Latch (Leeds Action to Create Homes) is a housing charity that converts empty buildings into homes for tenants in urgent need of housing in Leeds.
The Leeds-based charity has been working to transform homes and lives since 1990. This week, Latch handed over the keys for their 100th home, an incredible milestone for the charity, which has been working for over more than 30 years in Chapeltown, Harehills and Burley. And to celebrate the 100th home, Latch hosted a special event at the 100th home itself. There was even a very special ‘100th home’ cake that was shared amongst Latch staff, residents, local people and representatives from supporting organisations and media outlets from across Leeds.
The celebration event took place on Thursday 21st April at the home in Harehills. The event kicked off at 11:45, with a welcome from Cllr Mohammed Rafique, Executive Member for Housing and Environment in Leeds City Council. Cllr Rafique described the difficulty in finding quality homes for those in housing need and expressed concern over the likely increasing challenge that we are going to face over coming years. But, on a positive note, Cllr Rafique highlighted the incredible work of Latch, which can be celebrated through their 100th home.
The home itself is a mid terrace back to back property. The Latch team worked so hard, and after gutting the property and redoing almost everything, they have completely transformed the building from a derelict property into a fabulous new home that will house a family with up to two children. The renovation was made possible thanks to funding from Leeds City Council and the right to buy grant, the LandAid Foundation and Triodos Bank.
Following the welcome and speeches from Latch members, guests were invited to look around the home, and had the opportunity to chat with members of the renovation team and other Latch staff, including James Hartley – CEO of Latch, Joe Brown – Latch Property Development Manager and Ryan Jeffers who started out at Latch as a trainee but is now a member of the Latch staff team. To draw the event to a close, Asghar Khan, the Lord Mayor of Leeds cut the ribbon to officially launch the 100th home and then came the big moment when the special 100th home cake was enjoyed.
Training and volunteering
In addition to transforming homes, Latch also provides training and volunteering opportunities for unemployed people across the City. They have worked with 81 people over the past 8 years and nineteen of these people have since gone into employment, apprenticeships, or further training. I spoke with Latch volunteer Ben Darter, who helped with the renovation of the 100th home.
Ben has been volunteering with Latch since late Summer 2021. He initially started helping out with the office remodelling project, which involved helping to make the Latch office spaces more accessible. Ben said “Latch is an opportunity for me. I had tried to volunteer at other places. It was hard during the pandemic. I wanted to work in a social enterprise. When I found out about Latch and the work it does, it really ticked a box. I wanted to feel like I was involved in something worthwhile.“
Ben has now volunteered on a number of property refurbishments and is enjoying the opportunity to give something back to the community by working with Latch and to see a process from beginning to end. Ben had some painting and decorating before and said that he has also learned new skills. ‘” enjoyed working with an electrician, seeing how to rewire a house. And all the carpentry – I liked hanging doors and things like that.“
His volunteer work has also helped to improve his confidence and mental health, as well as to build a more positive identity and healthy routine, which will support him to move forward and potentially get back into paid employment. ‘I have moved up from one day a week to four. Latch has been a safe space, a place to deal with things as they appear. It gives me freedom, and I can take my time. It’s given me a way to work on my own mental health whilst also helping the community.’
In Leeds alone, there are over 5,600 people currently homeless or living in poor quality housing. Despite this, there are hundreds of buildings in the City that are empty or derelict and rundown. But that is where Latch comes in and now with 100 home renovations complete, Latch can help approximately 200 adults and children every year, giving them a safe home and a place where they can make a new start in life and progress towards independent living.
James Hartley, CEO of Latch explains: “We are thrilled to reach this important 100th home milestone and to have provided the bricks and mortar to help almost 500 people gain a fresh new start in life over the past decade. Comfortable, high quality housing where our tenants can feel secure is the foundation of what we provide, but we also offer a whole lot more. This includes personal support and individually tailored training to provide our tenants with any skills that they may need to find work, gain confidence and move on to the eventual goal of independent living. We provide them with everything that they need to support them make positive changes in their lives.“
The work that Latch is doing is incredible, but the housing crisis that we are currently experiencing is only going to get worse, leading to more people needing homes, and the cost of renovating buildings is only going to increase. Despite these challenges, Latch is determined to continue working to support people in housing need. Latch is working to secure additional funding and aims to renovate six new high quality homes, housing up to 12 people, over the next year – amazing!
Feature photograph: James Hartley, Latch CEO, outside the 100th home.