I am an independent writer, researcher, and editor who specialises in the innovation of professional practice in the social housing sector.
I have more than 30 years’ experience in writing, editing and publishing content on housing matters, informed by almost 40 years of a highly varied career in the sector.
If you would like to speak with me about your project, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Career in social housing
Between 1999 and 2016, I was the founding chief executive of HouseMark, the cross-sector business intelligence provider owned by the CIH and the National Housing Federation (NHF). I was proud to take HouseMark from a start-up to a £5m million turnover institution that has over 950 council, ALMO and housing association member organisations across the UK.
In that role, I led the innovation and then standardisation of benchmarking as a business tool in the social housing sector and was a co-founder of the national collective procurement body Procurement for Housing.
I stood down as HouseMark Chief Executive last year to focus on writing about housing and on post-graduate study.
I have also served as chair of Intake, a hostel for homeless young people, as a vice-chair of Wandle, a leading London housing association and as chair of the government’s advisory group on digital switchover and social housing.
My first book, Filling the Empties – short-life housing and how to do it, was published by Shelter in 1986 and accelerated the growth of short-life housing co-ops in England and Wales. Sadly, most of the co-ops have been wound up over the last 15 years and social landlords have pursued more active and commercial asset management strategies.
In the late 1980s I wrote reports for TPAS and the National Consumer Council on stock transfer and tenants’ rights which helped lay the foundations for independent advice for tenants and the ‘right to ballot’ legislation – both of which are fundamental elements of the transfer of council housing today.
In the 1990s I edited and published guidance manuals on Compulsory Competitive Tendering (ADC) – helping councils to defeat government policy – and then on how to embed New Labour’s Best Value policy in practice (CIH and ADC).
At CIH I also commissioned and edited Jeff Zitron’s ground-breaking book on Local Housing Companies, which helped pave the way for the formation of arm’s-length management organisations (ALMOs).
My most influential publication has been Working Together in the 1990s: A guide for local authorities and housing associations (CIH 1991).
This was the first publication on the topic and the biggest-selling title ever published by CIH. Working Together directly led to the ‘ADC/AMA/NHF/Housing Corporation compact’ which standardised working relationships following the introduction of private finance and the growth of stock transfer.
Many of the proposals I made in Working Together are still in practice today – such as the formalisation of local authority nominations of households in need to housing associations.
My latest publication, Building Bridges, revisits this topic in even more challenging times – see below.
After the turn of the century, as HouseMark Chief Executive, I commissioned and edited many publications which influenced sector practice and continue to do so.
The most significant publications – which everyone in the housing sector needs to read today – are:
Social hearts, business heads; new thinking on VFM for housing associations, (NHF/HouseMark 2012), written by Steve Smedley.
This report looks at how to balance efficiency with mission when developing a VFM framework. The title of the report has since entered the social housing lexicon.
Journey to Impact: A practitioner perspective on measuring social impact, (HouseMark/Midland Heart 2013), written by Stephen Russell. Stephen is now the Director of Commercial Services at HouseMark.
This the most authoritative guide to understanding and measuring social impact/value currently available.
Fire, Gas and Carbon Monoxide Safety Regulations: what English social landlords need to know, (HouseMark 2015), written by Stuart McDonald and Denise Chevin. Separate guides for Scotland and Wales are also available.
Clearly, guidance on fire safety is changing following the Grenfell Tower disaster but – that qualification made – this publication is the only source which sets out all legal requirements in a single place.
Transparency and Trust: A guide to data protection and privacy for landlords and tenants, (HouseMark/Anthony Collins solicitors 2017), written by Jane Burns and Marianne Hood OBE.
The definitive guide to the topic, up-to-date, comprehensive and balanced.
Latest publication – now available
Building Bridges – A guide to better partnership working between local authorities and housing associations is co-written with John Perry of CIH and Gemma Duggan of consultancy Altair.
Building Bridges is published by CIH, sponsored by Vivid Homes and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH). It analyses the current issues in partnership working and proposes major innovations – notably around the allocation and affordability of new and existing homes.
I would love to hear from you
I am a thought-leader and a collaborator who has new ideas for research that leads to sector change. I can:
- lead – or collaborate on – your research
- help communicate new ideas to your stakeholders
- help you influence government
- manage your thought leadership programme, and
- coach your staff on these topics.
Please get in touch!