Ms Cooke – currently chief executive of Midlands Heart – will join Clarion on 1 April 2018, and will take over as chief executive on 6 April following Mr Exford’s retirement.
Ms Cooke has been chief executive at Midland Heart since 2012, having previously been the organisation’s finance director. Prior to Midland Heart, Ms Cooke – a qualified accountant – was group director of resources at Knightstone Housing Association and chief finance officer at Anchor Trust.
Neil Goulden, Clarion Housing Group’s chair, said: “Ruth Cooke will be joining us at a critical phase of Clarion’s development. She, along with her colleagues on the Clarion group executive team, has the energy, drive and experience to support our commitment to deliver first-class services to our communities, alongside our ambition to build 50,000 new homes over 10 years and we look forward to welcoming her.”
Ms Cooke said: “I’m honoured to have been appointed as the next group chief executive at Clarion Housing Group.
“Having the opportunity to lead such a large business with a clear social purpose and with the ambition both to deliver 50,000 new homes and make a real difference in communities is a huge privilege. Keith will be a hard act to follow, but I’m very much looking forward to working alongside the board and executive team to deliver Clarion’s ambitious plans.”
Clarion Housing Group is the largest housing association in the country and owns and manages 125,000 homes across over 170 local authorities.
It plans to build 50,000 new homes over 10 years, two-thirds of which will be for affordable rent and homeownership.
Midland Heart is now recruiting for a new chief executive.
John Edwards, the association’s chair, said: “I want to congratulate Ruth on her new role and I wish her all the very best in her future career. Ruth is leaving Midland Heart in a strong position, having recently retained our G1 V1 accreditation and holding one of the sector’s highest Moody’s ratings.
“While Ruth is moving on, our successful Fit for the Future strategy will remain and we will continue to focus on providing great customer service, value for money and developing new affordable homes for the future.
“The board and I have started the process to find Ruth’s replacement and will make a further announcement once this has concluded.”