Unity Homes is a successful property developer in the East African region. As of today, the company has completed 623 homes spread across three counties in Kenya. The company is geared towards ‘providing quality and affordable housing across Africa”.
In this article, WoK brings you the story of John Latham – the founder of Unity homes.
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John Latham was born and raised in the United Kingdom (UK) where he spent the better part of his childhood and teenage life. He attended Oakham School, UK from 1994 to 2001 before proceeding to Imperial College London where he graduated in 2005 with a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.
He began his career in 2007 working for Civicon Limited as a projects manager, a position he held for seven years. He had shares in the company and when it got acquired by another investor, he received a good amount of money which he used to try his luck in the business world.
In July 2014, he established Unity Homes with the aim of developing affordable housing options for Kenyans. Two years later, he co-founded Traffic Jam Pizza Limited where he serves as a director.
Establishing Unity Homes
His interest in the housing industry was ignited after he read a report by the World Bank revealing the increasing demand of housing in the country. He invited his three friends who invested their money and in turn joined the company as shareholders.
The company’s first development project was situated in Eldoret and broke ground in 2014. During an interview with howwemadeitinafrica, Latham revealed that he chose Eldoret because competition wasn’t high in the area.
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“I liked Eldoret as a safe space to hone my skills and there were few developers over there. I was very aware that I was not an A-grade developer at that point. However there were some downsides which I didn’t see at the time, which was how much less income people have in the regional towns and cities,” he explained.
The first project was almost considered a failure since it took the company four years to build and sell the project’s 239 units. During the interview, Latham compared the profits he got from the project as that of a 10 year Kenyan government bond.
Although it was quite frustrating and disappointing to him, he knew clearly that there was no space for giving up and so he continued pushing.
The next project was a 400 unit estate situated at Tatu City in the outskirts of Nairobi. The project was a mixed-use development that involved a shopping district, factories, schools, homes, medical clinics and offices. The development was a huge success and it took the company only two and a half years to build and sell the properties.
Currently, the company has grown to boast of a portfolio of over 623 completed homes spread across three counties in Kenya. They are currently constructing an additional two estates within Tatu City that involve 640 and 1,200 residential units.
The company also recently expanded to join the Nigerian market where it is constructing affordable houses in Alaro City and in the Lekki Free Zone of Lagos state. The project is in partnership with Tatu City developer Rendeavour.
“If you are in the formal sector you should be focusing on the capital cities in a country or even better the regional hubs. That is why we are in Nairobi and Lagos. At this stage even the idea of going to Kigali or Kampala versus just going to the other side of Nairobi, just doesn’t make sense,” he told howwemadeitinafrica.com
The company has John Latham as the founder and managing director, Jason Horsey as executive director and Mina Stiernblad as finance director.
Other key leaders include Jane Wanjohi who serves as head of human resource, Irene Wafula as the head of Finance, Eric De Wildt as the head of operations, Azmina Thaim as the head of sales and Steve Mukolwe as the head of development.
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