Meet the regional manager: Stephanie Kelley - North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humberside
We spoke to Stephanie Kelley to find out more about her role at CIH and the work she is doing with CIH members in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humberside.
Tell us a bit about your career to date.
After a short stint as a hotel receptionist, I managed to get a job with a housing association aged 17. At this stage I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and was willing to try anything. My dad had worked in housing most of his life, so whilst it wasn’t a conscious decision to follow in his footsteps I did have some level of understanding of the sector.
My first role was as a customer services assistant at Sunderland Housing Group (now Gentoo); as soon as I started I developed an appetite and passion for housing and steadily began climbing my career ladder. I began studying towards a Foundation Degree in Housing Management and was successfully appointed a housing manager at the tender age of 20. At the time this was my dream job, I loved everything about it and it gave me invaluable experience and insight into the role of housing providers and first hand experience of neighbourhood management. No two days were the same and it gave me a great foundation to build a career upon. Over the past 10+ years I have held numerous positions, always within social housing, from leading on environmental sustainability and retrofit projects to working within policy, strategy and business planning. Over time I developed a passion and interest in Safeguarding and Domestic Abuse which led me to work alongside Sunderland Safeguarding Board within the Policy Advisory Group and train as a Domestic Abuse advocate with the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) to help make a difference within the community.
I’d describe my career over the last 15 years as diverse and eclectic but without a doubt enjoyable and fulfilling. I was delighted to join CIH in July last year and be the representative for the North, I can’t wait to progress this next chapter of my career!
What do you do in your current role?
My current role is such a mixed bag; I provide strategic support to three regional boards across the North and work with them to help promote membership and the benefits on offer, host regional events and engage with members. I also work with housing providers across my regions to ensure the CIH local offer is fit for purpose and ensure members voices are heard at a national level. I want to promote all the fantastic things the sector does and so it’s important I am actively on the ground visiting organisations and developing close working relationships. I also help develop regional events, speak at careers fairs, promote membership daily in a variety of ways and get involved in numerous CIH projects, such as Rethinking Social Housing.
What is an average day like?
There isn’t an average day to be honest, no two are the same. I cover a large geographical area so can be in Manchester one day and Northumberland the next! You can see from the previous question that the role of a Regional Manager is incredibly varied but typical activities for last week included facilitating policy round tables, I attended a housing summit, activity planning with boards, engaged with members and member champions to promote CIH membership benefits and visited a housing provider to meet with their CEO and HR lead to discuss CIH and membership.
What do you like most about working in housing?
It’s so rewarding. Everyone needs a home, a place they feel safe and secure and working in this sector I meet so many incredibly passionate people who just want to ensure that this becomes a reality for all. No matter what role you have within housing everybody has the same opportunity to make a difference, whether it is on a small scale by working to support an individual customer or on national level and influencing government policy. The sector is so diverse but we do some amazing things and I am proud to say that I work in housing!
As a profession it’s also incredibly diverse and I believe there is a career for everyone from repairs to housing management to accounts, you can’t say that about many other professions.
What is the best thing about working for the sector’s professional body?
I am proud to work for Housing’s professional body, I feel passionate about what we do as a sector. I want to enable everyone to unleash their inner potential and see themselves as true ‘professionals’, and CIH is about just that . We enable members to network and share ideas, champion good work and influence policy at a national level. We want to help professionals on their career path to either take the next step up the ladder or simply be the best they possibly can be in their existing role and there are a range of ways we do that; either through our mentoring programmes or learning and development opportunities.
As the CIH representative for the North I get to help those working within my three regions fully benefit from all we have to offer and really tap into services which will be hugely beneficial to their career and that’s gives me true job satisfaction!
What do you think the biggest issues in housing in your region are at the moment?
Without a doubt the biggest issue facing the North is the lack of good quality, truly affordable homes in the right places where people want to live. We don’t have the same demand issues as the south and in fact in some providers in my regions are struggling with hard to let properties on an increasing basis. We need greater investment in housing and infrastructure and more funding to improve existing stock- it isn’t just about new build.
Right to Buy and an ever increasing competitive PRS market is making the environment for social housing providers more challenging; we are loosing good quality, desirable stock meaning those most in need of our housing face greater difficulties accessing the homes they need.
Our regional manager roles are still quite new, why do you think it’s important we have representatives in each region and what do you hope to achieve in the role?
Absolutely! What’s become clear since I started in this post is that the regions were crying out for a local link and someone to align the boards in a more strategic way to the centre. Members want a person they can speak to face to face or feel comfortable picking the phone up to and having a chat and I hope that I am starting to be recognised as the face of the North.
Its great getting out and talking to providers and members and hearing first hand what their priorities, issues and challenges are and then relaying that back to central CIH so that we can ensure we are providing services and products which members will find most beneficial.
I hear all the time from members and organisations that the feeling is government policies and initiatives tend to be based around southern centric issues and I hope that I can help.