Our history

With close to 50 years’ housing experience, Orbit Group has grown to be one of the largest housing groups in the UK. It now employs more than 1,200 people and manages around 39,000 homes.

Watch a short animation about our history:


1966 - Orbit Housing Society Ltd and Orbit General Housing Association Ltd is established by Eric Bellingham (solicitor) and Clifton Bokenham (developer)

1975 – Orbit is registered with the Housing Corporation

1980 – Orbit works in three main regions: Bromley, Coventry and Norwich. A regional office in London was added in 1983

1984 - The Orbit Emergency Response Unit (now known as Orbit Response Unit) is set-up

1985 – Orbit operates across six regions

1986 – Orbit manages 8,336 units. Care and Repair is launched in Coventry, Rugby, Burton-on-Trent, Great Yarmouth and Waveney

1990 – Orbit Charitable Trust is set-up

1992 – Orbit manages more than 10,000 homes, making it the 15th largest housing association in the country

1994 – Orbit takes over the management of Bexley Council’s housing stock, increasing the housing stock portfolio to 19,300 homes

1997 - Orbit First Step is created when all the shared ownership stock and related leaseholds are transferred from regional teams within Orbit Housing Association

1998 – Orbit Bexley Housing Association is formed to manage the 4,500 properties from the London Borough of Bexley

2000 – Orbit’s property portfolio reaches 23,860, covering 13 local authority areas

2003 – Orbit’s customer service centre becomes the first in social housing to be accredited by the British Standards Institution’s Call Centre Association for Best Practice. Orbit First Step is awarded one of the largest HomeBuy programmes of the year. Thanet Community Housing Association joins the Group, bringing a further 2,580 homes into Orbit’s management

2004 – Orbit First Step is selected as zone agent for the Government’s key worker programme

2006 – Liz Potter is appointed Orbit’s first female chair

2007 – Thanet Community Housing Association, Orbit Bexley Housing Association and Orbit Housing Association stock in the south come together as Orbit South Housing Association. This is now one of the largest social landlords in the South East. Orbit now manages more than 27,500 homes

2008 – Orbit joins with South Warwickshire Housing Association. Heart of England Housing and Care also join the Group. Orbit Housing Association merges with Heart of England to create Orbit Heart of England. Orbit Housing Association stock in the east is rebranded as Orbit East

2009 – Orbit wins the bid to provide Care and Repair services in Suffolk, bringing its number of home improvement agencies to six. Orbit First Step becomes the largest HomeBuy agent in the country after winning a bid for the West Midlands (covering Coventry, Warwickshire, Birmingham, Black Country, Solihull, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Hereford and Worcester); Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Orbit First Step retains its HomeBuy status in Norfolk and Suffolk

2010 – The Orbit Group is one of the largest housing groups in the country operating in the Midlands, South East and East. It provides more than 34,500 high quality affordable homes to those in greatest need

2011 – The number of high quality, affordable homes owned by Orbit reaches 37,000

2012 – Orbit launches Housing 2020, a ground-breaking research report looking into the future of housing, to wide acclaim at the House of Commons. Alongside the London School of Economics, Orbit publishes Bigger Than Business, a report into community investment, with the help of Civil Society minister Nick Hurd MP. These two reports reinforce Orbit’s place as a thought-leader in the sector. Planning permission is secured on Erith Park, a 600-home regeneration project in Bexley. Orbit’s IT and procurement teams win the Chartered Institute of Housing’s team of the year award in a unique double. Orbit now provides business services to around 40 external organisations.

2013 - Orbit launches its new vision of ‘Building Communities’ and setting itself nine ambitious targets for the seven years to 2020. The role of Chief Operating Officer is created to drive performance. A two-year organisational transformation programme also gets underway to ensure Orbit will deliver it’s 2020 targets. Orbit Chair Liz Potter retires and is replaced by Baroness Tessa Blackstone. Paul Tennant is elected as the Chartered Institute of Housing’s President.  Orbit is now building around 1,000 homes a year making it one of the largest housing association developers in the country. Orbit also explores developing a wider range of housing options and looks to sites where Private Rented homes could be delivered. Orbit has delivered the majority of its 2008-2013 ‘Good to Great’ business plan, including delivering almost 4,000 new homes and reaching customer satisfaction of 82.5%. Turnover tops £177m and Orbit secures an innovative £100m private funding deal with US financiers Pricoa.

2014 - Orbit’s vision of providing customers with a full range of home rental and ownership options took a step closer as we secured our first sites for private rented homes in Norwich and Stratford-upon-Avon. We continued to develop a flexible ‘housing journey’ for customers as we explored a product to move people from renting to owning a share of their home. Orbit’s Help to Buy agency became one of the largest in England after successfully securing contracts for the East and West Midlands. Our continued investment in our homes included delivering energy efficiency works in Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, and Bexley, in South London, to help us towards our 2020 target of bringing all our homes up to a minimum of band C energy rating. We were one of the few housing providers to take advantage of ECO funding to support our £14million investment into energy efficiency works. We partnered with the Chartered Institute of Housing to explore how shared ownership could become the fourth mainstream tenure. We were pleased that the Government responded and announced a consultation into shared ownership. Our 2013-14 financial results saw Orbit’s largest ever surplus of £67million.We launched our new culture narrative ‘Profit for a Purpose’ which signalled a step-change for the Group taking a commercial approach in order to deliver more for the customers and communities we serve.

2015 - Now managing 39,000 homes, Orbit is one of the country’s largest housing providers. Building more than 1,500 homes a year we are now the fourth largest developing housing association. The first phase of our Erith Park development was completed at the start of 2015  and in the first week of the year we welcomed the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who praised the scheme when he met residents moving into their new homes. We secured our first £250million bond to support our investment plans to 2020. We are well on our way to achieving our 2020 Vision with over 2,700 homes built since April 2013, 13% of customer transactions online, £6.5million investment into communities, 3,500 training and 440 employment opportunities delivered along with energy efficiency advice provided to more than 18,000 people.