A Day in the Life of a Housing Association Chief Executive
Sam Wilson, April 5, 2016
I’m sure many will sympathise with me when I say that I struggle to properly function in the morning until I’ve had a cup of coffee, if not two. For this reason, my first port of call when I get into the office is to drink the contents of the cup that my PA has put on my desk. I’m lucky enough to have a PA that understands me in this way and I’m grateful for this on a daily basis.
Caffeine hit done and the day can properly begin. Working in a small housing association means that my days are incredibly varied and a ‘typical day’ is nothing more than a myth.
Originally a Chartered Building Surveyor, I got into working in housing as a result of working on the refurbishment of terraced housing in Liverpool in the 1970s. I have been fortunate in my career that doors have opened at the right time to enable me to have a greater platform to help transform the urban landscape of my home town and make a difference to people’s lives.
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to work in a local authority, the Housing Corporation and a larger housing association. I joined Wirral Methodist Housing Association and, since it has been my dream job, I have never felt the need to move on.
I’m sure that many in our sector would agree that the most rewarding aspect of the work we do is witnessing the satisfactory completion of something that will improve the lives of our tenants or the local area. This could be helping meet a housing need through a new development or resolving a specific individual issue. Unfortunately, there is rarely an opportunity to stand back and enjoy these moments as there is always another pressing issue to move onto. I would say that a great advantage of working for a smaller organisation is getting the opportunity to get involved in every aspect of the work, I get a great amount of satisfaction from the variety of challenges that are presented through the course of a working day.
Wirral Methodist Housing Association was founded in 1964, born out of a desire to help people who had fallen through the net and needed an opportunity to build a successful life in a decent home. Over the years we have managed to make a significant difference to the urban fabric of the area, creating a sense of place for everyone in the wider community of Wirral.
Amidst the current housing crisis, the sector is a challenging one to operate in, to say the least. As a smaller organisation we have to be realistic about the way in which we can contribute to combating the issue. We do, however, always try and punch above our weight, maximise our assets to develop new housing options and make as big a difference as we can to the lives of the individuals we house.
The main reasons I encourage people to consider pursuing career in housing is the variety of opportunities that exist. There is no single path but rather a number of options, each one leading to a rewarding and fulfilling career. Those willing to work hard will find that not only will they be given the chance to progress but genuinely make a difference along the way.
For those looking to advance through the ranks, my main piece of advice is always the same: when you feel you’re ready then go for it, but do it for the right reasons. I believe very firmly that there is no set path to the top in this sector and that is what makes it so appealing.
At the end of each day the chances are that I haven’t go through everything that I had hoped to, you can never plan for what surprises are going to come through the door or at the end of each telephone call. The following morning will come with a small amount of angst when I remember how much has been left on my desk but nothing that my morning coffee(s) won’t prepare me for.
Off go the lights and another day is done. Despite whatever stresses the day has brought, I can happily say that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I always leave the office with a (tired) smile.
Alun Hughes is Chief Executive at Wirral Methodist Housing Association, having worked at the organisation since 1989. He is also a Chartered Building Surveyor and a Fellow at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.