In 2016 we celebrated our 150 year anniversary – GreenSquare's Oxfordshire origins date back to the creation of the Oxford Cottage Improvement Company in 1866.
On 10 August 1866 The Oxford Cottage Improvement Company Limited – the company which would eventually become Oxford Citizens Housing Association and then GreenSquare – was founded with the mission to tackle the poor housing conditions of the 19th century.
In fact, The Oxford Cottage Improvement Company Limited company quickly established itself as a local pioneer in driving housing reform in the area and was nationally one of the first of its kind outside of London. The company began by improving the quality of working class houses in Oxford, moving on to building sheltered housing, before changing its name to Oxford Citizens Housing Association in 1965 and, most recently, becoming known as GreenSquare in 2012.
Howard Toplis, GreenSquare’s chief executive, said: “Now GreenSquare owns and manages nearly 12,000 properties across Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire – but providing high quality homes for those on low incomes and most at need remains as much at the heart of our purpose today as it did in 1866.
“We are immensely proud of how far we have come since then – and are proud to be able to say that we really have been passionate about great places to live for the last 150 years.
“The Oxford Cottage Improvement Company was born out of the need to address the wretched housing conditions of the mid-19th century, and now, 150 years on, we are dealing with a different type of housing crisis. With home ownership in England at its lowest rate for decades, we have ambitious plans for the future to build many more new homes across all our areas of operation.”
“It is a credit to our ability to transform that we have continued to thrive – and thanks to the hard work of all of our board members and staff, who, over the years, have helped GreenSquare to stay true to its original mission.”
On 10 August The Oxford Cottage Improvement Company Ltd is founded as a joint town and gown venture by Auberon Herbert and G.W. Kitchin and other socially concerned members of Oxford University. C.L. Wingfield is appointed as the company’s first chairman. The influx of population from the countryside to the town, as a result of the industrial revolution, has led to the proliferation of urban slums, so the company begins by improving small groups of working class houses in Oxford. It quickly becomes a local pioneer in housing reform.
The company purchases its first property in Red Lion Square, Oxford.
The Government passes the Housing for the Working Classes Act – the most important act that has been created to date to address the worst areas of housing .
Rent collection and housing management is taken over by a voluntary committee of ladies.
The 1930 Housing Act requires local councils to clear all remaining slum housing, and provide subsidies to re-house inhabitants. Around this time, the Company has 130 properties – mainly in St Ebbes and St Clements – most of which are demolished or transferred to the Council over the next 20 years, following this Act.
Dr T.W. Chaundy becomes chairman of the company.
The company changes its name to Oxford Cottage Improvement Society and opens its first sheltered scheme called Phelps Place in St Clements, Oxford – today Phelps Place continues to be a popular 55+ scheme made up of 16 apartments.
Miss Clifton is employed as the first salaried housing manager – until this point the company had relied on volunteers. After a few months, she is succeeded by Miss Scrutton.
The company registers as a charity – and has retained its charitable status ever since.
The company's first office is opened at 43 Banbury Road before moving to Rosemary Court on Stanley Road. Today, GreenSquare's Oxford office is based in Cowley, with a further three offices in Chippenham, Swindon and Gloucester.
With 94 homes in management, the company changes its name to Oxford Citizens Housing Association (OCHA).
Mr J. N. L. Baker becomes chairman of the company.
Two sheltered housing schemes Margaret House and Alice House open next to each other in Rose Hill – in 2009, GreenSquare builds a new scheme of 26 flats directly opposite these buildings, known as Alice and Margaret House, to replace the original schemes.
By this time OCHA has more than 130 properties and merges with Oxfordshire Housing Society. This extends their work outside the City of Oxford. Today, GreenSquare has homes throughout the county and into the neighbouring counties of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.
Lucas Place and Remy Place opens in Iffley – in 2011, GreenSquare replaces the original schemes, which had become outdated, opening Lucas and Remy Place, a 55+ scheme of 27 flats.
David Ashmore steps into the role of OCHA's chief executive at which time the company manages nearly 290 properties – all sheltered housing schemes.
OCHA develops its first properties for shared ownership – in 2016 GreenSquare celebrates its 150th anniversary on the roof of 20 new apartments for shared ownership in Cowley, Oxford.
OCHA forms a partnership with Wiltshire-based housing association, Westlea, and becomes known as GreenSquare Group with David Ashmore as chief executive. The new combined group has over 350 employees and manages 9000 homes.
Gloucester-based housing association, Oxbode, joins GreenSquare Group boosting the company’s portfolio with 500 homes and enabling it to support residents in Gloucestershire.
Howard Toplis replaces Dave Ashmore as chief executive of GreenSquare Group. Also this year, GreenSquare takes on contracts to run a housing support service in Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service (GDASS).
GreenSquare develops two extra care schemes in West Oxfordshire, Fernleigh in Witney and The Paddocks in Milton-under-Wychwood – the 124 apartments, with tailored care options, are the first of their kind in the area.
Today, 150 years on, GreenSquare owns and manages nearly 12,000 properties across Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire – but providing high quality homes for those on low incomes and most at need remains as much at the heart of its purpose as it did in 1866.