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Canopy Housing is a self-help, community housing charity working in inner city Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK. The organisation renovates derelict houses to create decent homes for people who are homeless. A new tenant paints, decorates and furnishes their new home alongside Canopy staff and volunteers.
Empty properties are well recognised as an issue nationally, particularly in urban areas, and fall under the remit of the Empty Homes Agency. This national body supports local responses such as Canopy's. It appreciates that the project's community focus and small size enable Canopy to renovate the properties, maintain lengthy tenancies and to respond to anti social behaviour and maintenance problems quickly. All of which contribute to improving the quality of the local environment for all residents living in the area. Many of the derelict properties that Canopy renovates have been standing empty for years. They can blight an area and become sites for vandalism and rubbish dumping. In 2008 there were an estimated 17,557 empty properties in Leeds, which is over five per cent of the city's current housing stock.
Funding and partnership
Canopy currently manages three community buildings, around 32 homes in the Beeston, Burley and Harehills areas of Leeds and has eight members of staff. Most properties are Victorian terraced houses which are leased from Leeds City Council on a peppercorn rent for 25 years. Canopy works in partnership with the Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMOs), established by Leeds City Council in April 2007 to manage its housing stock, including Aire Valley Homes  and East North East Homes Leeds. Rental income on the properties which have been renovated and are being rented provides around a third of its annual income, with the rest coming from traditional charitable funding streams such as grant-making trusts and the Big Lottery Fund.
Through the practical work involved in renovating a property, Canopy brings together lots of volunteers from the local community to learn skills, increase confidence, break down barriers and make big improvements to local neighbourhoods. Canopy volunteers come from different communities in the local area, including people from different age groups and with differing abilities. Canopy works hard to ensure that its services are accessible to people from different countries, for example by providing translated information on its services to potential volunteers. People from different backgrounds interact and have the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences and skills. Practical jobs volunteers get involved in include light building work, plastering, painting, decorating, carpeting and tiling.
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• To work with homeless people in the renovation of disused properties to create homes that are secure, affordable and decent
• To ensure that those working on their future home participate fully in all aspects of the project’s work and gain renewed confidence in their abilities and personal satisfaction in their achievements; as such it is a self-help housing model 
• To bring together local communities to contribute towards the regeneration of inner city areas and foster a sense of community cohesion (The Charity's Coordinator was filmed for the UK government's Homes and Communities Agency online debate 12–30 July 2010: How do we maximise the use of empty homes?) 
• To support previously homeless people to integrate into their new communities, in maintaining their tenancies, and in their efforts to contribute to the social and economic life of the region
• To share the experience, successes and failures, of our project with relevant organisations and groups so that they might learn from our experiences and the project’s model
1996 – Two local residents get together to address the problems of the large numbers of derelict and empty properties in the Burley Lodge area of Leeds. They want to get local people involved, particularly those who are young and disadvantaged, in the work and create self-help opportunities for homeless people to work to create decent homes for themselves.
1997 – Planning takes shape and Canopy works with Leeds City Council and Leeds Federated Housing Association to access empty properties. Fundraising work begins to bear fruit and renovation work starts on the project base and resource centre at 66 Burley Lodge Road. Canopy starts work on its first house in October.
1998 – Canopy takes legal form and is officially registered as “an industrial and provident society for the benefit of the community”. Volunteer involvement continues to grow and Canopy volunteers set up Hyde Park Source, working to renovate bin yards in Burley Lodge area.
1999 – Work is completed on the project base with kitchen, workshop, office and meeting facilities. Canopy Apprenticeship Project scheme implemented.
2000 – Development work starts for replicating Canopy’s work into the Beeston Hill area of South Leeds.
2001 – The project in South Leeds gets started, called Beecan (Beeston Canopy) it starts work on the project resource centre at 114 Lady Pit Lane. The window box scheme is implemented throughout the Burley Lodge area.
2002 – Canopy expands to commence a bin yard project in East End Park, over the next two years the project renovates 42 bin yards to create communal areas for residents. In Hyde Park our last house in the area is completed (20th) area and within months the first house in Beeston is started.
2004 – Canopy begins to formally develop its work with the refugee and asylum community, providing housing and volunteer opportunities, amongst its existing diverse beneficiaries. Office space is shared with refugee community organisations.
2006 – Canopy restructures and refocuses on the housing renovations and volunteer programme in Beeston, as well as starting to take on some properties in Holbeck.
2007 – The project has worked with over 400 volunteers and completed a total of 36 property renovations. The volunteer programme is awarded the Investing in Volunteers standard.
2008 – Canopy begins work in Harehills with the support of many local volunteers and organisations. East North East Homes Leeds supports Canopy with the provision of empty homes, the first of which is turned into a workshop and office with facilities for volunteers, tenants and local residents.
2009 – Grants awarded in October–December enable the continuation of the work, but extra funding is still required to secure the staff team and other expenditure over the next five years.
For more information: visit  www.canopyhousing.org, phone 0113 294 6868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org