The Big Interview: CIH Scotland deputy director Callum Chomczuk
We spoke to our new deputy director, Callum Chomczuk, to find out his thoughts about the challenges which lie ahead for housing professionals in Scotland and his vision for CIH Scotland’s role.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I started in politics before moving into policy and public affairs. I’ve since worked for a number of charities including Age Scotland and Social Enterprise Scotland and I’ve also worked in consultancy. So I have quite a broad spread of experience when it comes to the policy landscape in Scotland and I think that will really help in terms of the work I’ll be doing at CIH.
What do you think the big housing challenges in Scotland are right now?
Well I think the biggest challenges are those which run right across the UK – affordability and supply. Broadly, how do we build a significant number of new homes and how do we make sure that people can afford them?
What is rather different here in Scotland is the policy landscape which we are operating in. Thankfully there is an acceptance from the Scottish Government that we need to take significant action and there is a desire and a commitment there to invest in housing – including sizeable funding for new social housing. So we’re perhaps starting from a better place than our colleagues in England.
But there is still a major challenge there in terms of how as a sector we remove blockages to development and practically deliver the new homes that we need, and how we get housing to be where it needs to be as a priority.
And where do you think that is?
Of course I would say this, but housing should be right at the very top of the agenda.
If you look at how much of an issue this is for so many people in Scotland, and right across the UK, then you can see that this is one of the biggest challenges of our generation and unless we act quickly it will certainly be one of the biggest facing the next generation.
When you look at the climate change movement you see how people came together on an issue which went on to transcend politics and other differences.
It’s no exaggeration to say that we need a similar movement on housing if we are really going to meet the huge challenge ahead of us.
What specific role do you see the sector playing?
Well clearly it has to be at the heart of delivery. We may have government support but to meet the housebuilding target set by government, everyone in the sector will have to play a part.
And of course this is not just a numbers game its about making sure that the home we build are the right homes, in the right places and that people can afford them.
I think there’s also an important point about unity here as well.
This can definitely not be a case of ‘us and them’ when it comes to private developers and the rest of the sector. The fact is we share a lot of goals and it is in all of our interests to build homes that people need – so we have to find a way to work together.
That is where CIH Scotland can play a crucial role.
What do you see CIH Scotland’s role as being?
I think that we will have a crucial role to play in the coming years.
We will continue to be a voice for the sector on key issues like welfare policy and we’ll be working with government to make sure that policy reflects the reality on the ground.
But I think our crucial part in meeting the housing challenges which lie ahead is in how we give housing professionals the support, the expertise and the knowledge they need to play their own role.
We’re lucky in Scotland that there is already so much good practice out there and a big part of our role has to be to take that knowledge and practice and showcase it across the sector.
We are unique in the sense that our members come from across the housing association, local authority and private sectors and that’s really important because it means we can help to bring those sectors together.
As the professional body in housing we are here to support people to deliver the homes and services that we so desperately need, so you could argue there has never been a more important time for our work.
I’m really looking forward to working with housing professionals across Scotland as we look to get housing at the heart of the policy agenda and set about delivering the homes we need.
Callum Chomczuk is deputy director of CIH Scotland.