Our history

Our founders were passionate about helping families with a housing need. This is very much something we still share today.

Optivo was founded in May 2017 following the merger of two housing associations; AmicusHorizon and Viridian. Together we’ve a rich history stretching back to the early 20th century.

Find out more about our founders and key moments of our history which helped shape the organisation we are today.

Our Founders

image: Joan BartlettJoan Bartlett

Joan Bartlett (August 1911 – September 2002) was a BBC employee by day and secret volunteer for the Chelsea Red Cross by night.  She was eager to support the nation during one of its most difficult times; World War 2.

More than two million homes across Great Britain were destroyed by enemy bombs.  Families and the elderly became homeless overnight.  Forced to sleep on the streets, in tube stations and makeshift shelters.

Overwhelmed by the plight of elderly people, who’d lost everything in the air raids, Joan set up Hearth and Home in 1945.  This later became Servite and then Viridian.

In 1946, Joan borrowed £8,000 from the Servite Friars and £3,600 from the London Air Raid Distress Fund.  With this she bought Servite’s first property; 17 The Boltons, South Kensington – a war damaged property, soon to become home to 22 elderly homeless people.

For 50 years Joan continued to fundraise for The Boltons, helping some of society’s most vulnerable people.

image: John Howes and Jack GriffinJohn Howes and Jack Griffin

Dismayed at the housing crisis in the 60s John Howes and Jack Griffin set out to make a difference to families living in deplorable conditions.

Starting at the Norbury Parish John and Jack, having listened to the concerns and needs of local families, decided to buy a house to convert into flats for homeless families.

John and Jack raised money and obtained a mortgage with London County Council to purchase 29 Norbury Crescent.

Having done their bit, to help the community of underprivileged families, John and Jack decided not to stop there.  They went on to purchase more homes, converting them into flats for homeless families.

Our history timelineimage: Joan Bartlett meeting Prince Charles in 1992

  • 1945 - Joan Bartlett founded Hearth and Home Ltd

  • 1946 - First house purchased, ‘The Boltons’

  • 1955 - Maisie Wood founded the Catholic Housing Aid Society (CHAS)

  • 1956 - Fundraising drive helped pay off the mortgage for The Boltons

  • 1964 - Three homes at Norbury Crescent formed the foundations for CHAS

  • 1967 - South London Family Housing Association (SLFHA) founded

  • 1968 - Harding Housing Association founded

  • 1974 - Hearth and Home Ltd changed its name to Servite Houses Ltd

  • 1975 - Crowebridge Housing was established

  • 1980 - Margaret Thatcher offered council tenants the right to buy their home

  • 1988 - Chelsea Housing Association founded

  • 1990 - Servite Houses Ltd changed name to Servite Houses

  • 1990 - Swale HA was established after tenants voted for a change of landlord to a housing associationimage: John Howes celebrates AmicusHorizon's 50th Anniversairy

  • 1992 to 2003 - Battersea Old Peoples Housing Ltd, Chelsea HA Ltd and Harding Housing consolidated into Riverhaven Ltd.

  • 1995 - Crowebridge Housing became a subsidiary of Swale HA

  • 1996 - 1066 Housing Association formed following the transfer of homes from Hastings Borough Council

  • 1998 - Rother Homes established

  • 1999 - Amicus Group formed

  • 2001 - SLFHA changed name to Horizon Housing Group

  • 2002 - 1066 HA became a subsidiary of Amicus Group

  • 2003 - 2007 Servite Houses diversified its business, acquiring assets for use as student halls, NHS keyworker accommodation and hostels

  • 2005 - Riverhaven Ltd joined Servite Houses

  • 2006 - Horizon and Amicus merged to form AmicusHorizon

  • 2007 - Thames Housing Association merged with Servite Houses

  • 2009 - Amicus Horizon and its subsidiaries amalgamated

  • 2010 - Servite changed its name to Viridian Housing

  • 2016 - SLDHA joined AmicusHorizon

  • 2017 - AmicusHorizon and Viridian amalgamated on 22 May to form Optivo