The Future of Housing conference held on May 25th in Belfast featured a host of top speakers addressing students and fellow housing professionals on the challenges the sector faces in these changing times.
Prof. Paddy Gray and graduating student Ryan Young opened the event by reflecting on the Ulster University course in Housing Management that has been the start of many great housing careers, including those of several of the speakers and many in attendance that day.
This conference marks the end of “30 Years of Housing” at the University, as the course has now been discontinued, making this a bittersweet celebration for many.
The Keynote address was delivered by John-Mark McCafferty, CEO of Threshold, who graciously stepped in for Aideen Hayden at short notice.
John-Mark spoke about the work of Threshold, the national housing charity based in Dublin, and the housing crisis that they are facing in Ireland.
Next, Michael McDonnell, CEO of Choice Housing Ireland, spoke about the importance of partnership working.
In changing and uncertain times, the lesson is to find good partners to help you achieve your goals.
Eileen Patterson, Director of Communites at Radius Housing, gave a rousing speech on Challenges and Opportunities, talking candidly about the merger which has formed Radius, Northern Ireland’s youngest and largest housing association.
Radius is a great supporter of the Housing degree with 34 past students now on their permanent staff.
Clark Bailie, CEO of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, spoke about his professional journey and offered some wisdom to the students in the room as they embark on their own careers.
"Good housing equals good health and well-being", he told the crowd.
Paul Armstrong and Paula Quigley, both former students from the Class of 2009, presented on the subject of “More than a Home”.
As the outgoing Deputy CEO of NIFHA, and the CEO of Groundwork respectively, neither work as housing providers, but both see their contributions as essential to the creation of communities and good places to live. Indeed, Paula says she "chose housing" as a profession from the start.
After a break and time to look at the exhibitors’ stands and the student projects, the conference reconvened with “The Perspective from the South”, a look at the trends in population and housing from David Silke, the Director of Research and Corporate Affairs at the Housing Agency.
Homelessness and the high cost of rent in urban areas are clear priorities.
Nicola McCrudden then presented the initial findings from the Chartered Institute of Housing’s research on “Rethinking Social Housing” which looks at the role of social housing and it's unique circumstances in Northern Ireland.
They are asking "What is social housing and what should it be? What does it do and what should it do? Who is it for and who should it be for?"
The event concluded with a Panel Q&A led by Colm McDaid, the Chief Executive of Supporting Communities.
Once again, we'd like to thank our generous sponsors for their support of both the conference and the "30 Years of Housing" dinner later that evening.