24housing has revealed its Top 50 Power Players for 2014.
Compiled from the votes of more than 200 senior housing figures, the list acts as a barometer of the most influential and inspirational people working in, or impacting on, the housing sector.
Few would argue that National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr doesn’t deserve his place at the top of this year’s list for his energetic leadership in a challenging environment.
Orr, the overwhelming choice for top spot this year, is one of those who’ve helped ensure that housing, from the shortage of new homes to the bedroom tax, will be a key battleground in the popularity contest that really matters – the next general election.
The Power Players list, now in its third year, features some of the key figures who we’ll all be seeing a lot more of in a vital 12 months for housing.
Firstly there are the inspirations: people like Tony Stacey (3rd) of the PlaceShapers group, and Carol Matthews (4th) of Riverside Group, who’ve both won lots of fans across the housing sector for the way they’ve been making the case for their communities and the role housing providers can play in turning lives around.
And then there are the influencers: big-hitters in politics who, like Lord Freud (14th) and Iain Duncan Smith (6th), may not be universally popular, but are undeniably having a huge impact on the work of housing providers and the lives of their residents. Love them or hate them, this year’s Power Players are the people shaping the present and future housing landscapes.
Once again, there’s strong representation for housing associations on the list. Not surprisingly some, like David Montague (11th) at L&Q, Keith Exford (32nd) at Affinity Sutton and Sanctuary’s David Bennett (50th), come from the bigger associations with the financial clout to keep delivering new homes at scale. But it’s not only the big providers that feature; many were impressed by the contribution of innovators and campaigners like Nick Atkin (20th) at Halton Housing Trust and Lisa Pickard (43rd) at Leeds and Yorkshire HA.
There’s also a better showing this year for arm’s length management organisations and councils, with the chair and the managing director of the National Federation of ALMOs both making the list and James Murray (44th) at Islington Council nominated for his commitment to ensuring more genuinely affordable housing is developed in his pricey London borough.
Then there are the thinkers: people like Alex Morton (8th), whose influential ideas in areas such as selling off high value social housing have now gone with him into Downing Street, and Julia Unwin (7th), chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, whose research continues to shape the national debate on poverty, welfare and housing. And there are those recognised for ensuring that residents’ voices are heard, including the chair of TPAS Steve Meakin (34th), its former chief executive Michelle Reid (40th) and board member Alison Inman (23rd).
But there’s no place for Homes and Communities Agency chief executive Andy Rose who was “pretty quiet in his first year”, according to one of our voters.
So what does our list tell us about the state of housing in 2014? For a few, there was disillusionment, either because they felt housing had become a mere political football in an increasingly polarised environment, or because they feared there were just too few genuinely positive figures out there.
But for most, the renewed debate around housing is producing some genuine stars on the national stage. As the battle lines are drawn for the next election, it’s the people on our list who’ll be in the thick of the action.
The full list can be read in this month’s issue of 24housing magazine, out now.