Young Leaders – the semi final

After initial nomination, Mark Lawrence cast his eye over proceedings as the final 10 travelled to NHF to battle it out for a place in the final.


Asked to pitch an idea to the judges that they believe would transform the sector, the 10 semi-finalists delivered presentations on a whole host of issues, from tenant engagement to repairs.

And the Young Leaders did not disappoint.

There were passionate presentations and ideas that had the judges nodding and writing down notes to take back to their respective organisations.

Juliana Crowe, housing and communities director at Rooftop Housing Group said she was “blown away” by the standard of the presentations.

Vanessa Howell, Head of Professional Standards at the CIH added that she “had been inspired, as I am every year”.

Before the semi-final began, Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said the sector needs “authentic and accountable leaders – that is the type of leader you all can be”.

This year’s judges:

  • Kate Henderson, Chief Executive, NHF
  • Katie Howells, Strategic Project Officer, Merthyr Valleys Homes & 2018 Young Leader
  • Mark Lawrence, Editor, 24housing
  • Vanessa Howell, Head of Professional Services, CIH
  • Juliana Crowe, Housing and Communities Director, Rooftop Housing Group.


Samera Arif

Samehra spoke about a lack of options in supported housing for those with mental health problems.

She said the lack of supply meant those with “low level needs” were being moved into general needs, causing problems such as anti-social behaviour and eviction.

Her idea was to use a £50m fund to create training flats for a six-week pilot to assess need and ensure the correct support packages were in place, which would be aided by the creation of a tenancy support network.

What the judges said: “Strong proposals on an important topic.”


Shauna Hutchinson – Finalist!

Shauna said the current tenant engagement model was “broken and outdated”, and it seemed like many associations treated it more as a tick-box exercise.

Her idea centred around the introduction of an online communication platform, where tenants could raise concerns and recommendations for the sector.

She encouraged the sector to use the “loud voices” to its advantage and make them the champions of the sector, rather than working against it.

What the judges said: “Very passionate presentation on a vital issue.”


Joe Hughes – Finalist! 

Joe captured the imagination by passionately delivering his “vision” of a LiveWell society, where silos are broken down between sectors.

He spoke about housing being the catalyst for education, health, safety and employment.

He said the sector must work with others, such as local health and police departments, to create effective local bodies. Joe pitched that, by pooling resources, the problems could be shared and tackled as a unit, which would provide a more effective service for tenants.

What the judges said: “Confident presentation to create a better future.”


Rebecca Kinsella

‘Techie Beckie,’ as she is known, was true to her name and delivered a pitch on the sector embracing virtual and augmented reality.

She said for social tenants this could allow them to envisage the place in which they would be moving.

For private customers, it would mean they could see how furniture is going to look, pick what carpet they want and more.

The idea is that it would eventually replace the traditional show home.

What the judges said: “Fitting nickname – forward thinking solutions.”


Sophie O’Sullivan

How does the sector better connect with young people?

Sophie said there was a need to target those aged between 11 and 16 and collaborate with local partners to create Youth Hubs and provide 24-hour support through apps and social media.

She envisaged a future where housing associations could offer sessions to teach, empower and provide life lessons, as “after all, these are our tenants of the future”.

If organisations can find time for unnecessary meetings, they can find time for projects such like this.

What the judges said: “Strong pitch for how housing can play a key role in young people’s lives.”


Lara Chani – Finalist!

Professional standards were the name of the game, as Lara stated the sector needed to treat its leaseholder customers better.

With the lack of knowledge around key issues being a fundamental driver of her presentation, she said the sector needed to drive training all around the organisation to understand the complexities of the tenure.

Lara called for a baseline standard to be created, one that would be proactive rather than reactive regarding the issues that commonly arise with leaseholds.

What the judges said: “This idea could help staff understand the issue much better – brilliant.”


Jason Searle

Tackling fuel poverty is a key mission of many in the sector, and Jason urged the sector to come together to use its collective power to get better deals for its tenants.

He estimated that if the sector cut even just 20% off the cost of what tenants are paying on energy, it would save the sector £324m a year.

He envisaged that regional groups would administer the project and would be offered to tenants as an option.

What the judges said: “Interesting concept on a vital issue facing the sector.”


Tommy Nightingale – Finalist!

As the only contractor in the final 10, Tommy made repairs his focus.

Looking to set up an open maintenance portal, he wanted to tackle issues such as poor communication, workmanship and response times.

The portal would be interactive and always online; tenants could upload photos and repairs issues, which associations would then deal with.

To help with the workmanship side, those repairing the homes would also be able to upload photos to show the level of work done.

What the judges said: “Simple but effective idea that could really make a difference.”


Katie Barker – Finalist!

Why let the apprenticeship levy money leave the sector when associations could share it?

That was the view of Katie, who pitched that the sector could transfer up to 25% of the levy that it didn’t use to other associations.

Dubbed the ‘UK Housing Shared Apprenticeship Levy Fund’, the money that wasn’t used would no longer leave the sector.

Trade body support would facilitate the idea, and organisations could sign up as either givers or receivers of the funding, depending on their situation.

What the judges said: “Sector needs to do more collaborating – this could be one way of doing that.”


Matt Cooper

Saying that the sector’s sheltered housing is “outdated”, Matt said there was a need to give the tenure a revamp and bring it in line with what the private sector is doing – for example, by providing a gym, pool and other incentives.

This would also help with the funding of the schemes, opening them up to residents’ families and the wider community.

The schemes could also be led by volunteers who would bring additional activities with them, for example.

What the judges said: “Learning from the private sector is key.”

In the next episode…

Our five finalists pitch to the housing sector at the NHF annual summit. The finalists are: Joe Hughes, Tommy Nightingale, Katie Barker, Lara Chani and Shauna Hutchinson.