60 seconds with… Shaun Aldis, chief executive, Wolverhampton Homes

In this interview ahead of HOMES 2018, we ask Shaun about his career advice having made the rare leap from property director to CEO. He also shares insights on tenant engagement, whether the Decent Homes Standard needs reviewing and how to avoid surprises in your budget!

Shaun Aldis

Shaun, you’ve been promoted from director of property services to chief executive – a rare move for the industry! How has this changed your outlook? And how has your experience prepared you for the new role?

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The role is a much wider agenda, it connects the outside of the company to the inside. It’s one of engaging and encouraging, ‘nose in hands out’.

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Building safety compliance is higher on the agenda than ever before. How are you coping with the cost pressures of compliance whilst having contingency to meet new demands as they arise?

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At WH we have always had a robust approach to compliance, one that I took to the NHMF when I was Chair. So if you manage compliance well then there should be no real surprises that you should budget for moving forward.

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That’s not to say that we haven’t reviewed our strategy and re-aligned works to reassure our tenants. There is no new money available so we have to either extend programmes over longer periods of time or defer those that are less important to that of maintaining health and safety.

Do you think the sector needs a review of the Decent Homes Standard?

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The short answer is “yes”.

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The longer answer, is that there is a lot of good points within the Decent Homes Standard (as defined by the Housing Act 2004), as it focuses on ensuring every home:

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  1. meets the current statutory minimum standard for housing
  2. is in a reasonable state of repair
  3. has reasonably modern facilities and services
  4. provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort

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It is important that there is a legal mechanism to ensure that there is a minimum standard for the fitness of housing, so there is no deterioration of the general condition of housing over time.

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However, there have always been gaps within the definition, especially when applying the guidance to blocks of flats. This is because the common areas also need to be in a reasonable state of repair and provide reasonably modern facilities and services.

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The HHSRS provides a mechanism to identify specific hazards but it is quite unwieldy and in practice most use a shortened version of the hazards (most common items). The scope of the HHSRS is limited to the dwelling and given the current focus on fire safety (say a breach in a compartment wall), it will be prudent to ensure that the scope is broadened, rather than having to utilise other legislation, such as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order to enforce.

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Finally, how do you think more asset and property managers can make it to chief executive? And how can chief executives become more ‘asset conscious’?

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Those that know me are aware that I am inquisitive by nature, which I believe has positioned me well to develop to more than a property person. I have never focused on a property qualification but business studies and CIH. The idea was that would learn in the section but not hold a formal qualification.

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I also surrounded myself, many years ago, by people who could make decisions. This is an art in itself! Along with hard work, this allows you to get early recognition for career development.

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The second part is why wouldn’t CEOs be asset conscious? It is probably the biggest single area of expenditure and one that gets rated both internally and externally and could bring your organisation in to question.

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Don’t miss Shaun Aldis speaking on ‘What next for strategic asset management?’ at HOMES, taking place at 1:00-1:45pm on Wednesday 28th November.

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Register for your free* pass now!

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*Attendance is free for Housing Associations, Local Authorities, ALMOs, Developers/Builders, Architects & Charities. A fee of £150 +20% VAT per day applies to commercial organisations.

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