Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

  • Joseph Rowntree Memorial Housing Trust, 1968 - 1990
  • JRHT

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence

1968 -


The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) is a registered housing association and care provider in York and North-East England working to inspire social change. It shares its Trustees and staff with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and works in partnership with it. It was established on 1 January 1968 by the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust (JRMT), the predecessor of the JRF and one of three Trusts founded in 1904 by York Quaker businessman and philanthropist Joseph Rowntree to further his family’s work in the field of housing and social reform.

The JRHT provides affordable housing for rent and shared ownership, care homes, retirement and supported housing, and demonstrates new approaches in those areas.


The Housing Trust was created in 1968 to serve as the operational arm of the then JRMT. Until 1959 the JRMT was known as the Joseph Rowntree Village Trust and its work was largely confined to the development and management of New Earswick, the model village outside York. However in 1959 the Trust’s powers were greatly expanded under a private Act of Parliament to include social research and experiment in the UK and abroad.

The Trust’s new dual role as a charitable body administering an endowment for the purposes of social research and experiment and as a housing association developing a housing programme with the aid of government subsidies gave rise to a number of difficulties. The broadening of its field of work threatened to disqualify the Trust from the benefits of key housing legislation such as the Rent Acts which specified that a housing trust should devote the whole of its funds to the provision of houses for the working classes. At the same time there had arisen a discrepancy between Joseph Rowntree’s own view of charitable housing as that which is of benefit to the general community and the now statutory view of housing as charitable only so far as it contributed to the relief of poverty, which challenged the charitable status of the Trust itself.

Consequently the Trust took advice on the possibility of separating its housing functions from its other activities in order to safeguard its linked status as a housing trust and endowed charity. A scheme was drafted with the aid of the Charity Commissioners and the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Housing Trust was constituted as a legally separate entity and vested with all of the land and property of the JRMT, including the New Earswick estate and the adjacent Kettlestring Farms. It also received an annual grant from the JRMT.

The administration of the two Trusts continued to be closely integrated however. The JRMT and JRMHT shared trustees and executive staff and the JRMT could contribute to any part of the work of the Housing Trust that was legally defined as charitable. All Housing Trust staff were and remain employees of the JRMT, now the JRF. Initially Trustees established a management committee to which they delegated their responsibilities for the New Earswick estate, then the bulk of the Housing Trust’s endowment. The committee was made up of three Trustees and three non-Trustees, and included the chairman of the newly reconstituted New Earswick Village Association. By 1975 the committee membership had been revised to include three Trustees, three representatives of New Earswick residents and two independent members appointed for their knowledge and interest in social and educational matters.

Tenant selection was delegated to the Lettings Subcommittee in the 1970s when the Housing Trust began using government funding (through the Housing Corporation) to modernise and expand its housing at New Earswick, requiring it to let houses based on individual, rather than community, need. The subcommittee included representatives from the village and monitored lettings, voids and arrears, with the authority to bring individual cases to the notice of the Management Committee.

The JRMT also created an Assistant Director of Housing to oversee the broader housing operations of both Trusts, and, in 1980, a Housing Committee which became the key decision making body of the JRMHT until the 1990s. The Housing Committee reported to the Trustees and to the Finance and Investment Committee which was also shared by both the JRMT and the JRMHT. It included at least three Trustees as well as the Chair of the New Earswick Management Committee (which reported to it), the Director of the JRMT and the Assistant Director of Housing.

By 1986 the Assistant Directorship had been promoted to a Directorship of Housing and the post subsequently became the Director of Housing and Property Services responsible for the JRF’s Housing Department which includes the JRHT and the non charitable Joseph Rowntree Housing Society Ltd (created in 1980).

The structure was further amended in 1980 by the creation of the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust Housing Society Ltd, and in 1981 by the creation of the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust Housing Association Ltd (the latter only for the duration of a High Court case brought by the Trust). Both were established as non-charitable bodies which could undertake work the JRMHT could not by virtue of its registration as a charity and as a charitable Housing Association.

The work of both the JRMT and JRMHT was described together in the published Triennial Reports from 1968 to 1991.


From its creation in 1968 the JRMHT became responsible for the extensive modernisation programme at New Earswick which had already begun under the JRMT. In the early 1960s the Trust had begun installing indoor bathrooms and central heating to bring existing houses up to modern standards. In the late 1960s they turned their attention to the east side of the village which included its oldest houses, built before 1913 by Unwin and Parker. Here they were faced with the challenge of sympathetically modernising houses of great architectural significance. Fortunately a similar problem had been dealt with at the model village of Port Sunlight, created by the Unilever Company, and the Trust was able to engage its surveyor B. D. Rumgay to replan a New Earswick home along similar lines. His plans showed that a radical modernisation of the house interior was possible, while preserving the historic exterior.

Following consultations with the villagers, work began on the east side of the village in 1968 under the New Earswick Management Committee and to the designs of the Trust’s architect Richard Fraser of the Louis de Soissons Partnership. Work on the oldest houses was completed in 1972 and in 1973 the New Earswick Improvement Area was awarded the government’s medal for Good Design in Housing. The programme continued throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s and included not just the improvement of housing but also a substantial overhaul of the village’s roads, footpaths and facilities to meet changing expectations. A swimming pool had already been added in 1967. In 1968 the Folk Hall, created to be a centre of community life in the village, was extended and modernised.

Modernisation work began to slow in the early 1980s as government funding from the Housing Corporation was reduced. Between 1979 and 1981 a total of eighty-three houses had been modernised, dropping to only forty-two between 1982 and 1984, and thirty-nine between 1985 and 1987. It was in this period that the Housing Trust’s area of operations began to focus more particularly on schemes for the elderly and to extend to housing in York and beyond. The Triennial Report for 1985-1987 describes this as partly the result of reaching the natural limits of development at New Earswick and partly due to the growing restriction of public funds and the need to tailor the Trust’s activity to schemes that would qualify for grant support while still meeting community needs.

Between 1976 and 1983 the block of flats in the village known as Red Lodge was extended and adapted with the help of a Housing Association grant to provide sheltered accommodation and a day centre for the elderly. The Trust also built seven new bungalows at Chestnut Grove. Between 1985 and 1987 The Garth was expanded to provide nineteen bed spaces and another property, Westfield House, was converted to provide six bed sitting rooms.

Outside of New Earswick the Trust embarked upon a new development of sheltered flats at Clementhorpe in York, to be known as Clementhorpe Court, which they hoped to dispose of under a community leasehold scheme for the elderly. Under such schemes half of the equity of the property is bought by the occupier and the remainder is rented. The Trust had already attempted a leasehold scheme at New Earswick. Between 1978 and 1979 the Trust had built thirty three flats at Willow Bank as an example of community leasehold but, after objections were raised by the Charity Commission as to the charitable nature of the scheme, they were obliged to lease the flats at full market value.

As a result of the dispute over the nature of such schemes the Housing Trust created a non-charitable Housing Association in 1980, the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Housing Trust Society Ltd, to undertake similar work in the future. The Clementhorpe Court development, which had begun in 1980, was also transferred to the new Society while the Housing Trust brought a case in the High Court to clarify what housing activity might be classified as legally charitable, temporarily creating the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Housing Association Ltd expressly for this purpose. The case was heard in 1982 and the High Court found in favour of the Trust, allowing the Housing Trust to not only take back responsibility for Clementhorpe Court but also to launch new leasehold schemes for the elderly at Newby and Cloughton in Scarborough, Thornton le Dale, Upper Poppleton, and at Heslington outside York, each in conjunction with local authorities.

The flexibility of tenure offered by alternative schemes such as community leasehold became a major theme of the Trust’s work in the 1980s. Further leasehold schemes for the elderly, such as that at Dower Court in York, offered variable percentages of tenure so residents could purchase 25, 50 or 75 per cent of the equity in their homes. Another flexible tenure scheme was completed in 1987 near Heslington Road offering forty eight residential units that could either be rented in full or sold at various stages of equity to better meet the needs of individual financial circumstances. Further flexible developments were completed at New Earswick, a shared ownership development at Woodland Place and mixed tenure developments at Juniper Close, Alder Way and Hazel Close, and another shared ownership development was completed at Woodlands Vale, Scarborough, in 1987, this time for young first time buyers. The Triennial Report of 1985-7 noted that no similar schemes were known of in the UK.

As a practical extension of the JRMT’s work in the field of disability, the Housing Trust also developed properties for the use of those with mental and physical disabilities. In the late 1970s the Trust built twelve new dwellings at New Earswick that were adapted to the needs of wheelchair users. Beyond the village the Trust collaborated with the York Mencap Hostels Association in 1984 to build Dormary Court Hostel on the Huntington Road as a home for ‘mentally handicapped’ adults. In the same year they acquired a four bedroom house in the village of Huby to provide a home for children with mental disabilities who had previously lived permanently at Claypenny Hospital. In this latter scheme the Trust worked with both the Regional Health Authority and the Social Services Department of the County Council.

In addition to this work the Trust also became involved in a programme of civic improvement in York. In 1979 they entered into an agreement with York City Council to take responsibility for a small housing action area in Clementhorpe with the aim of improving sixteen houses for sale with the help of government Improvement Grants. The scheme, which was transferred to, and continued by, the Joseph Rowntree Housing Society Ltd was the first of its kind in the UK and was later adopted as government policy. Another rehabilitation scheme was undertaken at the site of an old mill on Navigation Road in York which was acquired by the Trust and restored, with the addition of a riverside walkway and bridge over the River Foss. The bottom two floors of the building which became known as Rowntree Wharf were leased to Rowntree PLC and the remaining four floors converted into flats.

The innovative work being undertaken by the Trust in this period led them to create a dedicated Housing Trust Research Fellow at the University of York in 1986 who would monitor the work of the Trust and publish the results.


In 1988 Rowntree Mackintosh was taken over by the Swiss company Nestlé, forcing the JRMT to sell its company shares which still accounted for some 60 per cent of its income. The sale almost doubled the value of the Trust’s assets, substantially boosting the amount it had to spend on its research and development programme and on its housing operations.

Trustees took the immediate decision to reserve £20 million for an expansion of the JRHT’s development programme and the JRMT’s direct property interests in York. This decision had the additional benefit of providing the JRMHT with the long term funding it needed under the new 1988 Housing Act, which required Housing Associations to borrow private funds in place of the long term loans previously available through the Housing Corporation. Since the Act also gave Housing Associations the power to set their own rent levels, ending the practice of ‘fair rents’, the JRMT arranged for a low rate of repayment so that the JRMHT would be able to maintain affordable rents.

In 1990 the JRMT changed its name to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the JRMHT changed its name to the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust. At this time the overall management of the JRHT was still overseen by the Housing Committee, which had responsibility for housing operations undertaken by the JRF and its associated bodies, whilst its day to day administration was carried out by the Housing Department, headed by the Director of Housing and Property Services, Cedric Dennis, who remained in post until 1997. The department also administered the Joseph Rowntree Housing Society Ltd. New Earswick still came under the separate New Earswick Management Committee and its subcommittees. In 1991 the New Earswick Management Committee was chaired by Nigel Naish, a Trustee and great grandson of Joseph Rowntree.

In 1993 the JRF added the new post of Housing Research Development Officer to bridge the gap between housing research and housing operations and to ensure the research carried out by the JRF had a direct impact on the work of the JRHT. In the same year housing operations were relocated from The Homestead, which had been occupied by the JRF and JRHT since 1990, to a management base in New Earswick, separating the offices of the two Trusts for the first time but providing more responsive ‘on site’ services. The Housing Trust’s Builders and Gardeners Departments also moved to new premises in nearby Huntington Road. By 1995 200 of the JRF’s 375 staff were employed in its housing operations.

The second half of the 1990s brought further change as the JRF introduced a new Development Overview Committee in 1995, chaired by Nigel Naish, to support research and development projects involving the JRHT, drawing together the research and practical elements of the two bodies. The Trust also absorbed the work of Joseph Rowntree Housing Society Ltd, which was closed after a legal ruling on the provision of shared ownership by charities made it no longer necessary to maintain a separate non-charitable housing society.

In 1997 the JRHT employed a Community Development Worker and a Family Support Worker to work directly with Trust managed communities. In 1998 the Housing Committee responsible for the JRHT became the Housing Operations Committee and Care Services Committee, each chaired by a Trustee and each with a Director of the same name, replacing the single Director of Housing and Property Services. In the same year the JRF created a new Policy and Practice Department with its own Director which would actively engage with external policy developments and agenda and work closely with the two new Housing Trust directors to share information.

The new Millennium began with the creation of a Community Services Department to work alongside residents of New Earswick and the Housing Management Department (previously the Housing Department) to support the New Earswick Community Association, to improve services, and to target families in need of additional help. By the end of 2001 the JRHT completed the relocation of all of its housing management and community services to the village, in time for its centenary in 2002.

In 2006 the JRHT issued its first independent annual report, separate from that of the JRF, although it still described itself as the ‘operational arm’ of the Foundation. The report noted the growth in the number of recognised residents’ groups across JRHT developments in Yorkshire by this period, resulting in the expansion of the overarching Federation of Residents’ Groups. Three members of the Federation also served on the JRHT Housing Operations Committee.

The long-serving Director of both the JRF and JRHT, Richard Best, retired in 2006 and was replaced in 2007 by Julia Unwin. The year that followed was marked by a review of the JRHT, its governing structures and its relationship to the JRF. The review led to the creation of a JHRT Board, made up of Trustees, external experts, and residents, to oversee day to day operations and report to the JRF/JRHT Board of Trustees, as well as the establishment of a number of Strategy Groups to advise them on future work under the themes of poverty, place and empowerment, which had been agreed in a joint strategic plan with the JRF. The JRHT Board, which met quarterly, was chaired by Nigel Naish and replaced the Housing Operations and Care Services committees. Day to day management functions remained the responsibility of the JHRT Directors which by 2008 included a Director of Housing and Community Services, a Director of Development and Property Services, and a Director of Care Services.

Two further groups created at this time were Residents’ Voice, which represented resident groups from across the JRHT’s housing and care properties and advised the JRHT Board on residents’ concerns, and New Earswick Village Anchor which brought together key groups concerned with the village, including police and youth workers, to set priorities for the community.

In May 2009 the JRHT added a new full time Executive Director, John Hocking, to oversee the work of the Trust and its housing, community and care operations. At the same time the Trust appointed a Resident Involvement Officer, whose role involved supporting existing and new resident groups and working with staff and residents across the Trust’s services, and built on the work of the Community Development Worker position created in 1997. One such new group was the Community Facilities Network in New Earswick which brought together volunteers who run community facilities such as the Folk Hall and the many village clubs.

Following the retirement of John Hocking as Executive Director in 2015 the senior leadership team was restructured. A new Strategic Director of Communities was appointed to oversee developing, housing and care services, supported by a Deputy Director of Development and Asset Management, a Deputy Director of Care, and a Deputy Director of Housing.

In December 2016 Julia Unwin stepped down as Chief Executive of the JRF and JRHT and was succeeded by Campbell Robb, who remains in post as of 2018.


The early 1990s saw a severe decline in the property market in York which inevitably reduced the number of new developments undertaken by the Trust. Nevertheless it maintained its commitment to flexible and mixed tenure housing with the aim of breaking down the stigma around renting versus house ownership. In 1990 the Trust opened Sandacre Court in York which offered flexible tenure sheltered housing for the elderly. Flexible tenure houses and flats were completed at Beverley in 1992, to be managed by Beverley District Council, and an integrated ‘mixed tenure’ housing development was opened at Monkton Road, York, in 1992, consisting of both shared ownership and rented homes. In addition to these new developments the Trust also extended flexible tenure to all existing residents of the New Earswick estate through the ETHOS scheme (Existing Tenants Home Ownership Scheme).

The Trust’s ‘Lifetime Homes’ scheme became another key part of its housing work in this period, reflecting its close links to the research programme of the JRF. Between 1991 and 1993 the JRF’s Lifetime Homes Group developed a set of design criteria to make new homes more accessible and adaptable to the changing circumstances of residents, in particular those with disabilities. The Housing Trust subsequently worked in partnership with York City Council to develop an eleven acre site at Foxwood to create 126 such homes with a mixture of tenures. The estate, known as Woodlands, was officially opened in 1994 and was the first such development in Europe. The criteria were incorporated into the Labour government’s updated Building Regulations in 1998.

The Trust also continued to expand its accommodation for the elderly. In 1990 the JRHT opened a pioneering care home in York, Lamel Beeches, in partnership with The Retreat hospital, and by 1995 the home was being used by the Trust for its NVQ training care assistant programme. In 1992 an existing sheltered housing scheme in New Earswick, Red Lodge, was modernised and subsequently received registration from North Yorkshire County Council, allowing residents to access a full service of residential care.

The Trust also began to develop plans for a continuing care retirement community in New Earswick, the first of its kind of the UK, which would consist of bungalows around a central community centre offering residential care facilities and a range of amenities. The scheme was championed by the JRF’s Associate Director of Research Robin Huws Jones who had seen similar communities during visits to the United States. The Trust began building on a site on the outskirts of the village in 1997 and the finished community, known as Hartrigg Oaks, was officially opened in 1999, offering 152 bungalows over a 21 acre site, all built to Lifetime Homes standards. It represented the JRHT’s largest single development to date.

In the 2000s the Trust also opened ‘ExtraCare’ retirement communities at Hartfields in Hartlepool and Plaxton Court in Scarborough in partnership with local authorities and health agencies. As at Hartigg Oaks these offered independent living for older people, but with access to shared facilities and a close integration of social and health care services. The communities, which were completed in 2008, were mixed tenure, environmentally friendly, and built to Lifetime Homes standards. Their design, and that of Bedford Court, another integrated care community built by the JRHT at Horsforth, near Leeds, in 2002 were influenced by surveys of residents of Trust care homes and communities, published by the JRF in the report ‘My home not the Home’ in 2001.

Reports such as these, the creation of a new Housing Research Development Officer in 1993, the Development Overview Committee in 1995, and the Policy and Practice Department in 1998, underlines the concern felt by both the JRF and the JRHT that the two bodies should work closely together, the research and development programme of the JRF informing the practical work of the JRHT and vice versa. This can be seen in the development and construction of Lifetime Homes and in SAVE programme (Sales of Alternate Vacants on Estates) which grew out of JRF research on balanced communities but was put into practice by the JRHT at New Earswick.

This close co-operation was also seen at the end of the 1990s when the JRF and JRHT began work on a major new housing development in conjunction with the City of York Council. The new ‘model village’ at Osbaldwick on the outskirts of York was intended to set standards for affordable housing in the 21st century, just as New Earswick had done in the 20th. The plans were subject to extensive public consultation in 1999 and combined JRF research into ‘Lifetime Homes’ and shared ownership, with the JRHT’s long experience of good practice in housing development, particularly regarding community spaces and amenities. Plans for the new estate were delayed by local opposition to the development but went ahead following a public enquiry, with work beginning in 2012 and due to be completed in 2018. The estate, named Derwenthorpe, provides a mix of eco-friendly homes for sale, for social rent, and for shared ownership.

Environmental sustainability became a greater priority for the Trust from the mid-2000s. In 2007-2008 the Trust committed an additional £250,000 a year over five years to improve the sustainability of their existing properties. In May 2008 the JRHT completed a new eco-housing development in New Earswick, Elm Tree Mews, on the site of a former garage. The six new houses provided an opportunity to study the process of building and maintaining environmentally friendly homes and the Trust worked with a team of academic researchers to monitor the development, incorporating their findings into plans for Derwenthorpe. In 2009 the Trust worked with the JRF to examine energy efficiency in homes and its contribution to poverty. In the same year it began work on the Temple Avenue Project, in which the Trust built two new homes and adapted an existing 1930s semi detached house in order to trial two different construction types, test energy efficiency, and explore how best to improve the sustainability of an existing property. The assessment was completed in 2010 and the results fed back into the JRHT’s ongoing development work.

In 2010 the Trust demolished Dormary Court, a former care home, redeveloping the site as two bungalows for people with learning disabilities and four family houses. The new development, which opened in 2011, was the first in the North of England to use Hemcrete, a new low-carbon breathable material, and was designed to meet the voluntary Code for Sustainable Homes introduced by the government in 2006.

Such innovations contributed to the broader anti-poverty strategy pursued by both the JRF and JRHT throughout this period. In addition to promoting improved social housing and affordable rents, the JRHT offered residents’ advice on benefits, debt, and affordable loans. In 2015 the Trust made a commitment to becoming an anti-poverty landlord and in 2016 it supported the JRF in the launch of its comprehensive plan to solve UK poverty, the culmination of a major programme of work launched in 2012. The Trust developed the JRHT Moneysmart Strategy, finalised in 2017, to improve its money and benefits advice service and provide guidance on lower energy prices. It also launched an affordable loan scheme in 2016, following a successful pilot the year before, and appointed a dedicated Anti-Poverty Manager to coordinate work in this area and develop new initiatives.

As of 2016 the JRHT owned and managed 2,512 homes, of which 1,180 were let at social housing rents and 716 were care homes, extra care and retirement communities.


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Related entity

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (1904-)

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GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2003); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion




Borthwick Institute for Archives, Joseph Rowntree Foundation Archive

JRMT Triennial Reports and Accounts

JRF Annual Reports and Accounts

Lewis E. Waddilove, One Man’s Vision: The Story of the Joseph Rowntree Village Trust (London, 1954).

Lewis E. Waddilove, Private Philanthropy and Public Welfare: The Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust 1954-1979 (London, 1983).

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