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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Rising Stars 2018 - the final ten: Oliver Harling


As they fight for your votes, each of our Rising Stars finalists has been asked to blog about housing and how they would use winning the competition to the benefit of the sector. Here Oliver Harling puts his case forward.

Close your eyes and imagine being able to make a difference in the neighbourhood that you grew up in, now imagine the challenges and rewards that brings.

I work in my neighbourhood. The neighbourhood where my mum, sister, and many friends still live today. Every day I make decisions about whether to repair a kitchen or whether it needs a new one. Whether a customer should have a new fence or if this is something we can maintain. In everything I do I have to balance the needs of the business and the needs of the customers.

We all want the best for our family and friends, most housing associations would say the same about their customers too. But in housing there will always be customers who are ‘better off’ than others. It’s our job to make sure that every customer receives a great service, balancing their needs with the needs of our business. This balance has become even more apparent in recent years with a growing housing crisis, pressure to do more with less, whilst managing our assets and doing our best for customers.

Growing up in social housing and with my skills in customer care and my technical knowledge, I strike a unique balance between delivering excellent customer service, managing our assets, delivering value for money and meeting organisational needs.

The housing crisis has meant that a big focus in the sector is building new homes. This provides opportunities for many. For me it provides the opportunity to develop my career as a trainee surveyor, and for people desperately waiting on social housing waiting lists it provides them hope and a place to call home.

But what about our current tenants? How do they feel when they see a new development being built in their neighbourhood, whilst they wait for their turn on the improvement programme and struggle with welfare reforms that make paying their rent even more challenging? Its these frustrations and struggles I understand.

For me making a difference to customers lives has always been the biggest driver for me. It’s the reason I get up in the morning and it’s what has given me the most satisfaction during my career. Customer care is the foundation of my career and I still get immense satisfaction seeing the difference I make by simply doing my job.

Working in housing has opened my eyes to all the ways we help people. From investing in apprenticeships, providing specialist support for vulnerable people, or simply helping people to live independently in their homes. I believe housing providers do more than provide homes – they provide hope, dignity and opportunity.

I am testament to this and if I become the next Rising Star I want to help others see the value we bring. It’s our social purpose that makes us unique and this is something we must hold onto.

During this year I will also be working hard to continue my personal development. I’m always seeking opportunities to improve and my appetite for learning grows the more I learn! This year I will be starting my HND in Building Surveying. I will also be working to inspire the next generation of apprentices in the sector. Mentoring new starters and inspiring people in my neighbourhood to dare to achieve.

As a local lad, growing up in social housing, some may have written me off. But my drive to learn and improve has seen me succeed. I am really excited about the future but will never forget my roots. I hope that in these challenging times housing providers continue to hold onto theirs – balancing their drive to reduce costs and build more, whilst continuing to provide great homes and services that improve our customers lives.

Oliver Harling is a trainee surveyor at Irwell Valley Housing Association and a 2018 Rising Stars finalist

  • Find out more about Oliver and how you can cast your vote here

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