My Housing Journey

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I’ve had a lucky career. When I finished at University, unlike some of my contemporaries who headed off to the city or for one or two, into Politics, I searched for something that  I thought might have social value but be really interesting. So, on the back of 3 summer jobs in the committee section of the Greater London Council, I blagged a year’s Internship in New York, looking at affordable housing delivered through planning policy.

The year brought me back to London, and the need for job, but with a fixed view, not private sector, not public sector. And I found it, as a Valuation Surveyor for London and Quadrant. Sounded fancy. It was actually a house buyer. That’s all we did in those days, not land deals, not regeneration. But I loved it. I stayed 8 years, with one stint in the middle working for Carr Gomm in supported housing and then made a decision that probably shaped my career. Faced with a potential offer to become a Development Director at a good medium sized housing association or to run a small community based association in the heart of Tower Hamlets, I chose the latter. Tony Stacey, the well known CEO of South Yorkshire Housing association and then CEO that medium sized association, was very gracious as I withdrew my application, and offered me a role on his Board instead. So I got the best of both worlds. Board experience and CEO experience at the age of 29.

The next bits were a bit of a whirlwind, growing Spitlafields HA as a strong community focussed organisation; taking on another CEO role; chairing the London Housing Federation’s Development Group for five years; Greenwich’s Joint commissioning Group for about 3; sitting on this committee and that committee; and having three kids( all boys) in that time.

My interest in the bigger picture of housing policy, though led me to the Housing Corporation, first as London Director, working with the embryonic Greater London Authority, then to Deputy Chief Executive, running the National Affordable Homes Programme with an eye watering £8.4 billion budget to support the delivery through the sector of 155,000 homes, We were facilitators but I think we facilitated pretty well. Then finally as CEO, managing the transition to two new agencies, The Homes and Communities Agency and the Tenants Services Authority. During that time I also sat on the Government sponsored  Commission on Integration and Community Cohesion, and as another such initiative is launched by government, would urge the thoughts from that work be remembered.

And the last 9 years, I’ve been lucky again. Enough people thought I knew something about housing and regeneration that the consultancy that I set up with Chris Wood, the former CEO of Newham, advised central, regional and local government, housing associations and private sector organisations on pretty much most things housing. Then, joining forces with two ex- Tribal consulting leads, Fiona and Susan, and being supported by the previous best consultants in the business, we’ve created something in Altair that is pretty well regarded across the sector, and now in Africa as well.  And I joined another Board, AmicusHorizon, now Optivo as Vice Chair. But still lucky to work with some of the smallest, most community based organisations across the sector. And not just in the south. As a commissioner on the Northern Housing Commission, I’ve retained a national view.

So far from having one dream job, I’ve had many. Oh and a  4th lad, to boot.

Now my passion is giving back. Our leadership legacies must be that we nurture the next set of leaders to have the same sense of core purpose in their bones.

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Steve  can be contacted on 07810-152840 or steve.douglas@nullaltairltd.co.uk