Ahead of tomorrow’s #HousingDay, which aims to help people who live and work in social housing tell their stories, Colette McKune, deputy chief executive of City West Housing Trust, explains why the industry is about so much more than just bricks and mortar.

I first entered housing in 2001 when I went to work for a homelessness charity. It’s safe to say I’ve experienced a fair bit of change since then but I’ve never looked back.

In fact the changes in the sector have meant new challenges and opportunities and it’s amazing to play a part in that. There seems to be a lot of doom and gloom at the moment and while we’re certainly having to do more with less in what are incredibly challenging times, I have to say I feel more optimistic than ever. It’s an exciting time to be working in housing, and a privilege.

I love housing. It’s inclusive and rewarding and is a career where everyone can make a positive difference to someone, regardless of whether you’re a deputy chief executive, a community development officer or a plumber. Housing is much more than bricks and mortar and that’s an ethos we’ve instilled at City West, and which our staff are fully bought into. It’s about supporting sustainable communities, as well as meeting the ever-increasing demand for affordable, quality housing.

For me, working in housing is all about one thing – people. So I count myself very lucky to see the positive difference we make to communities and the lives of people living in our properties every single day.

A major change since I started in housing is that we now treat our tenants as customers – people we provide a service to. We rely on our customers to tell us what we’re doing right – but also what we’re doing wrong. And we listen and take action.

As well as improving homes, providing opportunities to empower our customers has always been extremely important to me. I’m really passionate about ensuring customers can access programmes to improve their skills and employability, and ultimately get back into work. Our Skills Programme has helped hundreds of people into employment, pumping over £3.5 million back into the local economy.

The sector is continuing to change and housing associations are now focussing on growing, developing and becoming more commercial. However, hard-headed commerciality can’t be everything and now’s the time to remember why we work in housing – it’s about hearts as well as heads. Commerciality can’t be at the expense of performance or the level of service delivery that our customers have come to expect. So the challenges in the housing sector never end, they just evolve – and that’s one of the most exciting things for me.

#HousingDay is the time to remember why we work in housing and what we stand for, and I remain immensely proud to work in an industry that provides a wide range of people with opportunities and hope for a brighter future.

Colette McKune, Group Deputy Chief Executive at ForViva

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