Rising Stars 2012
It’s time to decide who deserves your vote in this year’s competition to find the brightest young talent in the sector. Here the three finalists set out their manifestos for change. Rhiannon Bury reports
If you haven’t heard of Scott Bryant, Dean Slavin and Inti Popat, you soon will. They are this year’s three finalists for the Chartered Institute of Housing and Inside Housing’s annual Rising Stars competition, and they are eager for your vote.
In the search to find the UK’s most talented young housing professional, the trio will face a series of challenges designed to showcase their ideas for the sector.
The judges, who include Carla Keegans, the winner of last year’s Rising Stars competition, chose the finalists on the basis of the 500-word article they each submitted in response to the following question: ‘It’s 2015 and you’ve just become housing minister. What’s in your first green paper?’
This week, they’ve been asked to build on their initial proposals, and to develop them into their Big Idea. It will be their job to sell this idea to delegates at the CIH conference in Manchester as the basis of their bid to win your vote.
Their plans include: co-operation initiatives involving the whole-sector (Scott Bryant); delivering services to residents within three price bands (Dean Slavin); and setting up a housing investment bank (Inti Popat). Each has come up with a catchy name for their particular campaign.
We seem to have three housing ministers in the making!
You can see these three Rising Stars in action at the keynote session entitled The economy closer to home, which takes place in the main auditorium at Manchester Central at 11.45am on Tuesday 12 June, and also during the keynote session entitled What’s happening to housing? also in the main auditorium, at 11.30am on Wednesday 13 June. The candidates will deliver their final pitches at the Future Forward session, again held in the main auditorium, at 3pm on Thursday 14 June.
32-year-old supported housing management officer at Asra Housing Group
Big Idea: Safe as Houses
‘My big idea is called Safe as Houses because as a sector we must ensure the safety and security of ourselves as providers and those we serve, now and in the future. The rapid changes in legislation and the expectation to operate under huge economic pressure means we need to be ready for a future when central government funding for development disappears entirely.
‘My first idea is to ensure housing continues to play a vital and ongoing role in economic recovery through our primary activity of building new homes. To do this, I propose the sector develops a housing investment bank. The UK recently has led the way in setting up the world’s first Green Investment Bank and as a sector we need something similar. Many of us already promote something similar at a local level to our customers - credit unions. We can follow this model for the sector’s investment bank and such an institution could also act as catalyst to attract outside investment.
‘Second, we also need to ensure the safety and security of our consumers following changes to independent sector regulation. Co-regulation will be a success, meeting local needs and aspirations, but we must ensure the private rented sector is not left behind or omitted completely, and that is why I think there needs to be cross-sector regulation that is voluntary and social-sector led.
‘The Localism Act 2011 and the new affordable rent regime mean that there is an expectation that we will be working closely with the private sector and it is important that the government and key stakeholders such as the Chartered Institute of Housing and the National Housing Federation start talking to their private sector counterparts to develop this idea.
‘This fits in with the future requirement of social landlords diversifying into private renting. Such a scheme will create competition in the sector; it will professionalise it and allow social landlords to offer additional services enabling cross-subsidy and preparing for a future without central government funding.
‘The sector or an external body could develop a “kite mark” that applies across both sectors - something along the lines of Investors in People. We could develop and remodel something that was piloted previously called Investors in Communities.
‘I believe my ideas are worthy of winning this competition because they look at the sector as a whole and aim to prepare us for a future without funding while having in mind providers and consumers.
‘I will promote my idea through a variety of means: campaigning via social media and using sector bodies including the Chartered Institute of Housing to debate the idea and raise awareness. I hope that, if it’s a winning idea, I could get Inside Housing to promote it too.’
30-year-old resident involvement manager at Parkway Green Housing Trust
Big Idea: Communities of Choice
‘The radical changes we’re seeing in the housing sector require radical action. The old methods are dead and we need a new world in social housing.
‘My idea, Communities of Choice, will introduce a three-layered rents model based on differing service levels delivered by social landlords.
‘In order to build and sustain communities we need social housing to become a real alternative to buying houses or renting in the private sector. Social landlords may have to revise their offer to customers to reflect income levels and customer expectations.
‘Communities of Choice allows a social landlord to offer three different service levels depending on customer income and what they’re willing to pay. The three levels are:
1. Core service (a good service that is reflective of customer offer)
2. Service plus (enhanced services, such as quicker response times and shorter queues in contact centres)
3. Premium (further enhancement would include a handyman service and grass cutting)
‘The idea is simple. A person moves into a house and will generally access the core service. As their income increases they can choose an enhanced package rather than move away. People tend to move out of areas once they can afford to buy homes, leading to a concentration of similar tenure, and the area declines. Communities of Choice would encourage people to stay where they are, paying premium rates if they wish. They would become role models for others to aspire to; tenure will be mixed.
‘Customers will choose service plus and premium because the services will be first class while rents will be competitive with the private sector and mortgages.
‘A reduction in the turnover of properties would increase community spirit - needed more than ever to help support our ageing population. Any extra revenue generated by customers accessing enhanced services would be invested back into community initiatives such as worklessness or education.
‘This is provides a further incentive for residents not to move: turnover is lower and increased social capital will empower communities to regenerate themselves.
‘Leading up to the conference, I will be pushing this idea as far and as wide as I can. I hope to make organisations such as the Tenant Participation Advisory Service and the Tenants’ and Residents’ Organisations of England aware of my idea and gauge their thoughts. I will create a page on my employer’s website, exploit professional networks and target media such as the Manchester Evening News, as well as informally sharing my idea with as many contacts as possible throughout the sector.
‘I’ll use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to target customers who have moved away from traditional methods of communication such as newsletters. You can follow me on twitter @Parkwaydean to hear more about my ideas.’
Vote: Scott Bryant
24-year-old policy and projects officer at Monmouthshire Housing Association
Big idea: Housing Harmony: fighting for strong foundations
‘The housing market seems to be falling apart, and yet this has not been met with an increased urgency from politicians. Indeed, the government’s response has been to suggest that the sector’s lobbying organisations believe in an “endless pot of money”.
‘How has housing in the UK reached such a terrible juncture? For many years, housing has not been given the political attention that it deserves. From being seen as part of the UK’s infrastructure, housing has been split along multiple dimensions for political and economic gain, weakening it as a lobbying entity.
‘Entitled Housing Harmony: Fighting for strong foundations, the focus of my Rising Stars campaign will be to unite the housing sector and its partners under one banner, giving it the teeth to challenge the government and put housing back on the political agenda. The whole sector was once far more central to policy making than it is today. This has meant that the potential of the housing sector to deliver has not been fully exploited - for example, to help the country out of its current economic problems.
‘This idea of uniting the sector may not be new, but I’m hoping to build up innovative ideas around how we can put housing back at the centre of policy decisions.
‘I propose a number of whole-sector initiatives, such as increasing the number of new builds, which will deliver real gains across the sector and will drive social and economic improvements.
‘This will not be easy, and we will not necessarily be in unison on all policy fronts. However, many professionals will agree that, mediating between the state and some of the UK’s most vulnerable individuals as they do, it’s got to be worth the effort.
‘The Housing Harmony campaign will be vital to changing the current political attitudes to housing. My plan is both to convince people of the importance of this, and to commence wide-ranging consultation to guarantee its success.
‘I will use Youtube and Twitter to publicise the campaign - watch out for my video and follow my regular tweets - and I will co-ordinate it on Facebook.
‘It will culminate at the Chartered Institute of Housing Conference in Manchester and, by the end of this conference, I hope to have developed a Housing Harmony constitution for the sector.
‘In the long term, the Housing Harmony campaign will seek to cement relationships between the various housing representative bodies, including the CIH and its regional bodies, the National Housing Federation, Shelter, Community Housing Cymru, the National Federation of Builders and the National Landlords’ Association.
‘It will also involve wider representative bodies who would be powerful in influencing the campaign and who represent those living in, working for or seeking to improve the UK’s housing stock.
‘The Housing Harmony campaign seeks to provide a solution to the unenviable position in which the sector currently finds itself. You can keep track via Twitter (@ScottDLBryant, or #hharmony) or Facebook (just search for Housing Harmony).
‘I strongly believe that achieving a vision of Housing Harmony will lead the sector to be victorious in building stronger foundations for the future of the sector, as well as the country’s society and economy as a whole.’