Housing’s Next Generation 2020 launches | News

Housing’s Next Generation 2020 launches

HQN is delighted to announce the launch of its Housing’s Next Generation competition, bringing together some of the best young housing professionals.

Housing's Next Generation, in association with Fuzzlab, will run over the next few months.

Building on the success of 24housing’s Young Leaders initiative, the new competition has been created by Mark Lawrence, the magazine’s former editor, who joined HQN earlier this year.

As part of the launch we are delighted to reveal the names of our 17 candidates who battle it in a series of challenges in the coming months.

The first stage will be in the form of a short virtual presentation to an expert panel on 22nd September. HQN members and the wider housing sector are very welcome to attend and show their support. To can find out more about booking onto the event here.

After the presentations, the judges will choose 10 of the candidates to go forward into the next stage of the competition, where they will be asked to write a series of blogs on different housing issues.

Five candidates will then be chosen to take part in the grand final in November, which is being staged as part of a special Housing’s Next Generation event (further details to be announced in due course).

Alistair McIntosh, HQN Chief Executive, said of the competition: “When I was their age I got excited by slow moving black and white ping pong games on pub table screens. Today they blast through the levels on Devil May Cry 5 on something called a PS4 (me neither).

"But it’s not just new technology the aspiring leaders have to master. They’ve also got to contend with climate change and the so-called new normal after Covid. How do you develop a career when all you see of your colleagues are grainy images on a smudgy laptop?

"Never mind, I’m sure they’ll find a way to get through this and everything else. There’s lots of brain power, energy and commitment here so let the Hunger Games begin!" (Ed’s note: Alistair obviously dozed off half way through the film and missed the point – Good luck to all the participants!)

Congratulations to all the young housing professionals that have made it to this stage. Here is the full list of the candidates:


Shahaveer Hussain, Neighbourhood Housing Officer, LB Camden

Shahaveer brings a vast experience of working in the third sector to empower vulnerable people, young people and campaign for a better community. He draws on this wealth of international and local experience to build stronger communities.

He organised consultations working alongside different services to go and speak to residents on their door step to understand what matters to them most and find solutions using the systems thinking tool.

As a result he has successfully organised a Tenants and Residents Association on his patch.  Shah has also been working with different services like the Community Safety Team to work with young people and offer all the services that we provide and bringing external services which are available to them.

Our job in the front line is to provide a trusted service to our residents here at the London Borough of Camden. The role is to help our citizens living in Camden’s homes to have secure, safe and affordable housing that meets their ongoing needs and provide help and assistance to them when they need it.


Laura Weston, Communications and Marketing Officer, Honeycomb Group

Laura is resilient and willing to go outside her comfort zone. She consistently pushes herself and is not afraid to challenge current ways of approaching tasks, making her an invaluable member of the team when it comes to transforming processes with the customer’s experience and journey the main influence for her decision making.

Laura is a bright communicator, great at building relationships with others; she is patient, persistent and kind.  Laura lives and breathes the values of Honeycomb Group by being authentic in any situation; she doesn’t judge, listens, commits herself to any challenge, leads through inspiration and is committed to the value of being a supportive team player.

With her excellent leadership skills and commitment to her work I can see Laura progressing into a more senior role which has a strong project management focus and uses her excellent organisational and promotional skills. 

Laura has great interest in both the social housing and communications sectors.  Integrating the two has helped transform processes, customer experience and brand reputation. A great career which combines social housing and communications is inevitable for Laura and her passion and commitment will continue to add value to the Honeycomb Group.



Halisha Kaur, Regeneration Officer, Accord Group

Halisha is an outstanding individual. She is assertive and confident and has a versatility that allows her to integrate with other departments and external agencies bringing her core values to the agenda.

She developed an interest in social housing whilst studying at university. Her passion and enthusiasm impressed the Accord executive team so much that she was asked to design a graduate scheme so she could join Accord after completing her studies.

Halisha has a great understanding of the value and need for diversity across the housing sector. She has demonstrated by identifying a gap in the market for a social networking group for young people in housing associations. Halisha set up her own network, bringing together trainees from other housing associations to develop NGen – the next generation of leaders in construction.

NGen aims to raise awareness of the great work that housing associations do, and to share those positive outcomes amongst young people. Halisha hopes that by creating NGen she will help to and provide a support system for existing young professionals and attract the next generation into the sector.


Natalie Makin, Energy Services Team Leader, Stockport Homes

Natalie has taken on new challenges and excelled, encouraging the team to make everyone see the best in themselves and their abilities.

Natalie is proactive in her approach to sharing her knowledge and in removing barriers to enable the team and individuals to develop new skills.  Natalie has also demonstrated this to other housing associations and across multiple sectors through various presentations and meetings.

As the Energy Services Team Leader Natalie has a major focus on customers in fuel poverty, energy management, EPC data and climate change. Part of this includes managing the Energy Advice Service, which carries out bespoke energy related visits to customers’ homes, ranging from debt related issues to help with fuel switches and heating upgrades, combined this produces great savings for customers.

Natalie is continuing to successfully implement a flexible procurement strategy, this not only secures energy demands a year in advance but also on average this saves the organisation 11% per year on energy costs compared to market prices and in turn this ensures service charges or communal energy costs are sustainable and best value for customers.

Alongside this, Natalie has recently implemented new processes that ensures the electricity used throughout SHGs portfolio is generated from renewable sources by implementing green tariffs.



Connie Garrett, Aftercare and Quality Manager, Sovereign

Connie puts customer service at the heart of everything she does, that’s why she’s established a new team from a standing start with an absolute focus on our customers. The success of this team is evidenced by praise from other parts of the business, satisfaction from other teams, resolving long-standing complaints and reducing complaint numbers.

Connie has reimagined the way we deliver the service, she’s influenced other stakeholders to buy into her vision and significantly improved satisfaction. Despite the challenges Connie always approaches her role with a positive optimistic attitude and her vision and approach for re-designing our service from a customer standpoint makes her standout as an inspirational leader.

Connie has instigated a paradigm shift in the way we approach defects, moving away from a complaints-based team to a team committed to getting it right first time and investing in our customers. Connie approaches all tasks with positivity and optimism and creatively seeks different ways of solving problems. She has shown strong communications skills and takes a proactive approach to build lasting relationships with a broad range of internal and external partners, embedding her vision and taking people along with her in that journey. 


Abbi Finney, Service Leader, Two Saints*

Abbi joined our Southampton team on 13 September 2016 as an assistant support worker. Within two months, Abbi was seconded to a support worker position at Patrick House, where her role involved working with clients with multiple complex needs in an intensive setting.  She worked closely with female sex workers, to try to provide the best support for them, and started a women’s wellbeing group. 

An appeal for donations of items allowed pampering sessions to take place in a comfortable space away from a male oriented hostel, where the women could speak freely about difficult subjects.  During this period, Abbi worked closely with police to highlight individuals who were exploiting or abusing our vulnerable clients resulting in an individual being taken to court.

In 2018 Abbi returned to Patrick House as team leader with a determination to achieve psychologically informed services.  Creating more psychologically informed environments and gathering donations to achieve this, Abbi created a bright and airy room where clients and staff could meet in a relaxed way for key work sessions. 

Abbi mentored and led the staff team to work with clients in a psychologically informed manner, being flexible with protocols to ensure that services delivered to clients were person-centred.  She helped to streamline processes and protocols to limit bureaucracy and challenged other agencies, who refused to consider a referral due to a client’s history, by demonstrating how change can happen if we flex the way we work with clients.

*Abbi is being recognised for her hard work in the shortlist but is unable to take part in the competition due to pregnancy. We wish her all the best and congratulate her for making it this far in the competition.


Kath Menzies, Housing Services Officer, Link Housing Association

I have never worked with someone with such levels of focus, commitment and determination at such an early stage in their career.

Kath has gained a wealth of interesting frontline experiences, including wearing stab-proof vests when she was working as an anti-social officer in London, spending time as a special constable and carrying out traditional housing officer functions.  

As a ‘Change Leader’, Kath has put herself firmly in the middle of the Scottish Government’s agenda to reduce homelessness.”


Ella Thorpe, Income Officer, Magna Housing

Ella has the respect of her team and the wider department. Her colleagues look to her for answers and for support, across a range of issues. 

Ella recently took on the work of an absent colleague, alongside her own workload, for a period of two months. Her determination to ensure her colleague’s work didn’t fall behind showed what a great team worker she is. 

Ella volunteered to do this and effectively carried out the work of two people for a significant amount of time. This made a huge difference to the team and ensured our customer’s needs were met.

Ella is not afraid to problem solve and work autonomously. Ella is also a skilled communicator: she recently facilitated a meeting between our Housing Services, Legal and Maintenance departments to resolve a property and repair issue she discovered had been causing great stress to one of our customers. Her tenacity and determination to support and help the customer was instrumental in solving the issue and highlighting it to the relevant managers in order to prevent a similar situation in future. 


Lucy Richards, Housing Officer, Magna Housing

Lucy has high standards and is assertive in encouraging others to match those standards.  Lucy takes ownership for her objectives but will explore how best to fulfil the objective and what best skills and experience she can utilise across the business and partner agencies. Her Housing Officer skills are flourishing as she progresses. She’s a fantastic communicator and has the ability to soothe and get her message across to even the most difficult of customers.

Lucy’s manager says he expects that she can adapt to any number of housing roles. Lucy is keen to learn and is actively searching for her next course and qualification. She has a good basis in tenancy management with previous roles in Community Safety and Lettings. 

Her previous career includes working for a legal firm and has provided a good grounding in process but also different perspectives. Her manager says that with her tenacious approach, Lucy would work well in a leadership or project management role. Outcomes and objectives would be a constant for her and that would transfer to her colleagues and team.


Rachel Crooks, Community Connector, Beyond Housing

Rachael Crooks is one of the most passionately proactive people at Beyond Housing. What makes her such an asset to the future of housing is her drive to enact positive change and make communities better places to live, with the vision and action plan to back it up.

One of Rachael’s standout achievements is transforming a community cinema project into a commercial initiative for a local CIC, extending its reach through engaging the support of other community organisations and accessing funding.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Rachael sourced funding and volunteers to provide weekend meals for children from struggling households. This successful scheme has been extended for the 2020 summer holidays, taking a weight off for families feeling the financial effects of the pandemic.

Rachael has developed a wide-reaching network of figureheads in local politics, business and the voluntary sector to help make her big ideas for her communities a reality. She is currently using this to build an ambitious woodland regeneration project to turn a 4.5 acre plot of woodland, close to one of Beyond Housing’s building developments, into a community resource to benefit health and wellbeing, arts and culture, education, local heritage, the environment and encourage tourism to boost the local economy.


Abdul Hassan, Customer Relations Officer, Tower Hamlets Homes

Abdul Hassan has passion for helping residents and getting things right the first time. He always leads by example and encourages others to rethink and question how we work. He gives support to any team or colleague who needs it.

Hassan sees the bigger picture – for example spotting the impact of responding to residents in time was having on our reputation and trust ratings. Hassan easily adapts to different situations, and example is when he took lead on our Joint Working Group on Fire Safety.

 This was not in his area of work but he stepped up and made sure it was resident-led and attended as a priority by the fire brigade borough commander and our chief executive.


Demi Duplex, Place Coordinator, One Manchester

Demi is a positive and likable person and is very popular with her colleagues. She is always happy to help out other teams in the organisation, often at short notice. Demi has built positive working relationships with the key stakeholders within the community in which she works.

This includes the ward Councillors, local police, health professionals, tenant and resident associations and community groups. Demi plays a key role in organising and attending events and activities with these groups, often during evenings and at weekends.

She has previously hosted an advice surgery at a local GP practice to help patients with their housing issues. She has also assisted the police in helping to reduce criminal activity in the area by sharing information and attending operational visits and joint walkabouts.


Jessica Marshall, Environmental Impact Coordinator, Orbit

Jessica started with Orbit as a Business Analyst. However, her achievements in establishing Orbit’s environmental programme and a new job role to accompany it - which sat outside of her day job at the time - illustrates genuine leadership, drive, passion and commitment.

Twelve months into her time at Orbit, Jessica felt that more could be done in the business to tackle climate change and reduce its negative impact on the environment.

With support from her line manager, she found extra time to establish Orbit Earth, a new programme that created a momentum right across the business.

Jessica also successfully demonstrated a business case for a dedicated management function to drive the Orbit Earth programme to be sector leading, and has now established herself as Environmental Impact Coordinator, a role which was created in 2019.

Since then, she has attended employee roadshows, co-ordinated an annual Orbit Earth week within the business and worked with stakeholders and other third parties to drive the environmental agenda internally and externally.

Jessica is continually proving that she is part of the driving force behind housing’s next generation, by taking a subject that she has a genuine passion for and creating a movement that has gained significant engagement and strategic traction across the business.



Catherine George, Neighbourhood Management Officer, South Liverpool Homes

While balancing the bread and butter work of a Neighbourhood Management Officer, Catherine is constantly looking for ways to innovate and create more effective ways of working. Within her team, she is a champion of working flexibly around the needs of tenants, visiting customers out of hours to help maintain contact and drive up engagement.

She is working to create a Tenancy Management workflow and process that will be rolled out across the Neighbourhoods Team, which will provide more clarity and structure to cases. 

Catherine is enrolled on SLH’s ‘Accelerate’ programme, which gives colleagues the chance to work across departments to develop innovative projects that change the lives of customers. She is currently working on a project to make Heaton Close in Speke more environmentally-friendly and aesthetically-pleasing, while using the project to stimulate tenant engagement.


Jordan Llewellyn-Jacques, Assistant Neighbourhood Officer, Rooftop Housing Group

Jordan shows leadership qualities even this early in her current role. She carries out varied tasks throughout her role interacting on the frontline daily interacting daily and problem solving for tenants who have a vast and varied amount of disabilities including learning disabilities and dementia. 

Jordan will always put the customer first and look at their needs and come up with the right solution showing empathy where required. She will take control of the situation and will always come up with the right decision for that customer. Overall, Jordan makes a difference to people’s lives often.


Jo Tripney, People and Talent Assistant, Mosscare St Vincents HG

Jo has a strong passion for equality, diversity and inclusion and has been instrumental in helping set up our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Forum at MSV, raising its profile and influencing and driving positive change across the business.

 Jo’s work on supporting gender and other forms of equality has meant that MSV placed 56th out of 100 in the National Centre for Diversity’s ‘Most Inclusive Employers 2019’ list.

Jo will also be assisting on work this year to gain the Investors in Diversity accreditation to further demonstrate our commitment to equality and inclusion for all. Jo always strives to do the right thing and is a very caring colleague.


Harry Forshaw, Youth Volunteer Coordinator, Poplar HARCA

Harry Forshaw is the Youth Volunteer Coordinator and has significantly changed the lives of young people living in Tower Hamlets. At just 28, Harry shows that he is not just a future leader but an ambassador for youth empowerment.

He has created a legacy at Spotlight: his commitment to working with young people has led to an 8% increase in youth volunteering. He achieved this by setting up Youth Committees around East London to champion youth leadership and teach young people key skills such as communication, confidence and time management.