The starting point for any new home is the land it is built on. The Development Team are at the forefront of identifying and cultivating these opportunities to build new homes or go into partnerships for homes that already built.
We spoke to Area Development Manager, Elsie Wong, to discuss her career in Development and the challenges of the role.
Hi Elsie, how long have you been with Midland Heart and how do you find it?
“I have been here around seven years. For me it has been good, I have done three roles since I came to Midland Heart.”
That’s a little while, how did you start here?
“I started in the Income team and did this for a couple of years until a trainee role came up in Development.
“I was looking for a more varied and challenging role. I had studied a post-graduate course in Housing, and housing development was one of the modules I performed well in which sparked my interest in working in this area . I had worked as a generic housing officer at another Housing Association prior to working for Midland Heart and developed experience/knowledge in the challenges our customers and housing management teams faced. When the Trainee Development Project Manager role came up I applied as I wanted to see if it was for me.”
Was it for you?
“Yes! I have stayed in development ever since. I enjoy the challenging day to day role.”
So can you explain a bit more about your role?
“We look at opportunities in the right areas for the organisation. We liaise with various departments to ensure we build homes in the right places where there is demand for affordable homes and in the areas where Midland Heart can manage effectively.
“Opportunities come from various sources such as developers come to us direct when they have schemes that need to provide affordable housing. We also have contacts with various agents who we liaise with and they bring us various opportunities such as land and build package deals and section 106 opportunities. It is very fast paced with a lot of deadlines.”
How do you think your role helps the customers?
“I like to think we are helping customers by providing good quality new build homes and that we have provided them with an affordable property. It is great when we do handovers and we see customers move in, but also we do 12 month end of defects visits and it is really nice to see they are being looked after and the customers are settled in their new homes.”
So you have to be quite a few places at once, do you find that challenging?
“It is challenging working between being on site and in the office. We have our contracted hours, but you need to be flexible as we often have deadlines we need to meet.
“When managing the on-site scheme we have monthly site visits and meetings on site, but a big part of my role is appraising and getting schemes into contract which is office based. My role is about managing your time, being very organised and effective communication with all parties involved which is what project management is all about.”
Some people have said that your role can be quite male dominated, have you ever found that problem?
“I can see why people would say it is male dominated but in Midland Heart, the team and project managers, there are a number of female staff. On site can be quite male dominated, but it isn’t really an issue. Some developers can try to pull the wool over your eyes with technical talk but they try that on with male colleagues as well.”
That’s great, so is there any advice you would give someone who is looking to get into housing development?
“To get into Development, you need to go through some training, even that is taking up a supportive administrative role in the team, so you understand what it is all about.
“The trainee role benefitted me as I developed experience in different schemes and I had the support of my managers. The team is really supportive of each other. The role is not a doddle, you need to be willing to learn and keep learning as things change in the working environment.”