This time we talk to current Vice Chair, Benjamin Conway who will, sadly, be leaving the Board in June 2022 having served the maximum term allowed of nine years. We thank him for his dedicated service to jLiving.
What attracted you to become a Board Member/Vice Chair at jLiving?
For as long as I can remember I have been involved in volunteering for various organisations in the Jewish Community. I think it must be in my DNA, something I inherited from my parents and grandparents. Having spent my working life in the property management industry, dealing day-to-day with tenant issues, maintenance matters, major works projects and compliance, it seemed a ‘no brainer’ that I could use my knowledge and experience to help in the sphere of housing within the community.
How long have you been involved with the organisation?
I have completed nine years, which is the maximum term allowed, but it is always a good idea to get new people involved with fresh ideas and enthusiasm.
What do you feel you were able to bring to the role of Board Member/Vice Chair?
Hopefully, some knowledge and experience in property matters, but perhaps more importantly, just general common sense, being a good sounding board and an understanding of the community.
Did you always have a particular interest in social housing and if so, what is the background to that?
To be honest – no. Social Housing is a complicated and specialised area, and it can take many years to fully understand the specific regulation requirements. In many ways it operates quite differently from the better-known open marketplace.
Do you think there are issues or challenges in providing good quality social housing and what are they?
Find me an industry that does not have issues or challenges. Firstly the commitment to transparency and accountability as per the Government White Paper of 2018 is essential. The long-term maintenance plan and upgrading the stock condition is a huge ongoing issue coupled with the numerous compliance requirements including of course fire safety measures.
Does the provision of social housing in the Jewish community bring any of its own challenges?
Firstly, social housing is not well understood within the Jewish Community. The housing difficulties in the community should have a far higher profile and at present we are nowhere near meeting the need. Secondly, Jewish social housing must be situated within the heart of the Jewish population and much of the jLiving portfolio is situated in areas where there once were flourishing communities that have now migrated elsewhere. Relocating social housing provision is not a simple task.
What are your hopes and goals for jLiving for the next five years?
There is a wonderful Senior Management team at jLiving strongly supported by the Board. There are a number of potentially very exciting projects to provide additional units at existing blocks and to partner with other housing providers and developers to grow the jLiving portfolio.
It will be crucial to establish the growth of social housing as one of the main strategic priorities of the community.
What will you miss most about jLiving?
All volunteers in whatever organisation will tell you that whatever you are able to give you receive so much more. I’ve learnt a huge amount; I’ve met people from across the spectrum of the community all of whom are dedicated to improving the lives of others and I’ve seen year on year 90% Tenant Satisfaction Surveys.
What was your biggest achievement during your time at jLiving?
Getting through a long agenda in record time!
Tell us something about yourself that no-one would know!
If I told you that, everyone would know!
It has truly been a privilege to play a small part at jLiving and I was rather shocked when I realised that I was no longer the new boy, and in the blink of an eye I had somehow become the longest standing member of the Board.
I wish everyone; Jane and Donna and the team, Adam and the Board, and all the tenants and Housing Managers every success in the future.