Sara Thakkar

Chief Executive, Colne Housing

"Colchester is a great place to build relationships and partnerships"

How would you best describe your organisation and its values?

Colne Housing is one of the country’s fastest growing housing associations. With a commercial head and social heart, we want to help end the housing crisis in Colchester and surrounding areas. We do this by providing affordable homes for people who need them. Our services are available to customers as an when they need them to achieve their aspirations and live as independently as they can.

Colne’s values are important to us. They reflect our culture, ethos and are an integral part of the services we deliver. Customers are at the heart of what we do, we are proud of our local reputation and focus on working with like-minded organisations so we can do more to end homelessness and improve communities.

When did your organisation begin and how has it evolved to date?

In 1973, Colne Housing Society was established as a charity to provide decent homes for those in ‘desperate housing need.’ We started modestly by building houses in St Andrew’s Avenue, Colchester. Over the years we expanded beyond Colchester to meet changing demand and the population’s different needs. Almshouses, bungalows, sheltered accommodation for older people, supported and shared homes for those with learning disabilities make up our portfolio – along with leasehold opportunities and shared ownership homes to part-buy, part-rent. By modernising our businesses we have embraced the economic, social and political challenges that have affected housing in recent years. 

How big is the organisation now?

Currently we provide 3,000 affordable homes across seven local authority areas and are building around 150 new homes each year. We have over 50 people working for us at our main office in Colchester. We are very proud that many loyal staff have been with us for over 20 years. We have a good mix of people of all ages from different work backgrounds from inside and outside the housing sector.

How do you see your organisation evolve over the next 5 years?

Colne is building on its strong foundations to enable it to be bigger, better and bolder.  We will grow so we can continue to develop homes in our core footprint of Colchester, Essex and Suffolk. We will remain a great employer become a regional player in the East of England.

What are the advantages of being a Colchester-based organisation?

Proud to be based in Colchester, we manage around 1,500 affordable homes in the borough. We are more than a landlord. We work with others to empower residents to improve their communities – so they are thriving places where people want to live and work. The diversity of businesses, organisations and community groups in the area means Colne is part of a fantastic network. Colchester is a great place to build relationships and partnerships which allow the town to be the best it can be.  

What do you see as the most important focus for Colchester’s future and why?

In our view it is housing. Everyone has a right to a stable home. With a roof over your head you are best placed to succeed – to get into work, develop a career, start a businesses or charity, bring up children, get a good education, inspire others and achieve your dreams. We want all organisations in Colchester who can play a part in solving the housing crisis to foster a joined up approach. Together we can build communities where people want to be – and make a lasting difference to the lives of Colchester people for generations to come.