A warm welcome to our new Board member, Chris Ellmore, who brings a wealth of experience to Hightown.
Chris has worked in the charity and public sector for his entire working life - with his most recent position as Director of Finance at Moat Homes, a housing association based in Kent.
We caught up with Chris to find out more about him and his views on the housing sector.
Tell us about yourself. What is your background?
I'm originally from Brighton, but now live in Hertfordshire with my wife and two children. I am a qualified chartered accountant and chartered treasurer and in my spare time I enjoy playing sports and socialising with friends and family.
What made you apply for the Board member role at Hightown?
I live in Hightown’s patch and nearby to some of their care and supported housing schemes. I wanted to contribute to my wider community by sharing my knowledge of social housing.
What experience do you bring to Hightown and the role?
I have worked in the sector for the past seven years and I believe I can bring sector specific focus and knowledge, to the Board.
How are you finding it so far?
I have really enjoyed being a member of the Board, as every meeting is different, with interesting discussions and challenging decisions to be made. The experience and expertise from both the Board and Executive team means that Hightown have the leadership and governance in place to address any challenges faced.
The housing sector has been under a lot of scrutiny recently. If you could change one thing about the sector, what would it be?
I would change the fact that housing associations aren’t always recognised for the good work that they do. We are all aware there have been some tragic and avoidable instances over the past few years that have been heavily publicised but there is often less focus on the positive work they do for some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Although it is important to highlight and learn from mistakes made in the sector, there should also be recognition for the millions of people housing associations help and provide a fantastic service to.
What are the key challenges for housing associations at the moment?
From a financial perspective, the current high level of interest rates has made it more expensive for housing associations to borrow money and therefore fund investment in existing homes, or new developments.
This has come at a time when the required investment in existing homes is increasing in order to be able to improve quality, building safety and energy efficiency commitments.
Therefore, the demand on housing association resources is being squeezed – the new 'tenant satisfaction' measures are a clear sign of, quite rightly, the greater focus housing associations need to have on their customers.
What do you think Hightown’s strengths are?
Hightown’s strengths lie in the dedication and commitment of the people that work for Hightown – this is especially obvious in the care and support schemes, where the teams do such amazing work for service users.
Due to the extraordinary growth of the organisation over the past ten years, the vast majority of Hightown’s homes are relatively new and therefore high performing in terms of the upcoming new decent homes standard and need to reach net zero.