Canopy is a self-help, community housing project based in inner city Leeds which was founded in 1998. It renovates derelict and empty houses to create decent homes for people that are homeless.
Through its practical work 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. Volunteers come together and help new tenants to paint, decorate and furnish their new home.
Canopy’s work is about bringing people together, changing lives and tapping into the potential, within individuals, and within communities and neighbourhoods.
Canopy manages 70 homes in the Beeston, Burley and Harehills and has 15 members of staff. All properties are Victorian terraced houses, many leased from Leeds city council at a peppercorn rent.
Empty and derelict houses blight an area and can become sites for vandalism and rubbish dumping. Renovating a derelict property has an uplifting effect on the neighbourhood and positively impacts on both residents and local businesses. All this contributes to a better quality of environment.
Canopy provides a ‘self-help’ housing opportunity for people that are homeless, which means they have the opportunity to participate in the renovation and decorating of their new home alongside the volunteers and can choose how they would like their house to look prior to moving in.
Canopy’s volunteers are an enthusiastic, interesting and diverse group of people from the local community and local schools and they learn to do the practical work to renovate the houses, including light building work, plastering, painting, decorating, carpeting and tiling. Volunteers can also receive support from Canopy to help find training and work.
Over the last 12 years Canopy has worked with over 500 volunteers. Last year Canopy involved 80 volunteers with around 6 people a day working on 2 sites.
Canopy brings together many individuals from different communities in the local area, including people from different age groups and with differing abilities. DIY and building skills are valuable and many people from different backgrounds are keen to work together and learn from each other’s experiences and skills.
Canopy pulls different strands of the community together and overcome ignorance and prejudice. Canopy has a local office base within five minutes walk of each group of properties and offers this space for volunteers, tenants and local residents, as a place to meet and have access to resources and support from Canopy staff.
Canopy has developed invaluable partnerships with local housing providers and the local authority and has negotiated lease arrangements on each of the properties, allowing them work together to overcome the problems caused by empty and derelict housing.
East North East Homes Leeds have recently supported Canopy with 10 new properties and Aire Valley Homes Leeds and housing associations such as Unity Housing and Leeds Federated Housing have also supported Canopy.
Impact of the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme
The EHCGP was a massive boost to Canopy Housing, resulting in the creation of eight jobs – doubling the staff team. As a result, the organisation acquired assets which have improved the balance sheet and sustainability tenfold. With grants amounting to c £790k, 14 long term empty homes were purchased and renovated involving local volunteers and homeless families, who worked on the projects to create good quality, affordable homes for themselves.
Canopy’s annual turnover is around £730k and it still relies on funds raised from charitable sources to maintain its operations, together with its income from rents. Numerous charitable trusts and grant giving bodies have generously supported their work over the years, both in relation to core costs and ongoing projects. Self-generated income from the rent from the properties brought back into use is also very important source of regular income
Support From Leeds CC & Future Plans
- with support from Leeds CC’s Right To Buy Grants Programme, Canopy has now purchased five properties and with assistance the RTBR2 programme Canopy will acquire and refurbish a further 18 properties over the next three years
- borrowing using the enhanced asset base in order to fund further projects
- involvement in the share issue through Leeds Community Homes to fund further projects
World Habitat Award
In March 2016, Canopy, in partnership with Giroscope Housing Project from Hull, won the BSHF World Habitat Award for Self-Help Housing In the North.
Tel 0113 294 6868
For more information on Canopy go to
Click on the link below to find Canopy’s excellent short film and hear first hand, from both volunteers and staff, about the work they do for Canopy and what it means to them:
About us