BCHA Who we are blog - Thomas Bain, Property Development Officer

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Property Development Officer Thomas Bain

I joined BCHA in September 2019 as Property Development Officer through a Leadership Development Graduate Programme facilitated by Charityworks, which enables successful candidates the chance to have full-time experience with a charitable organisation. 

As part of Charityworks, I have participated in several workshops and conferences with fellow graduates on the programme. These are very throught-provoking sessions, which make you look at certain situations and scenarios from a different perspective. 

BCHA, as a social housing association, has provided me with a fantastic opportunity to challenge myself in a project-management-type role within the charity sector. I have tried to take what I have learnt from the conferences and implement it into my daily work at BCHA. 

The primary objective of my role at BCHA is to provide suitable accommodation for our tenants. This includes building new flats/houses, renovating or converting our existing stock, or searching for properties on the open market for us to purchase. 

These goals take some time to come to fruition, so day-to-day work primarily involves communicating with stakeholders, including: local authority representatives, Homes England, architects, developers, contractors, BCHA’s housing team and BCHA’s asset management team. Working with all of these different people helps us to deliver the different types of accommodation. 

The Development Team is small – there’s just three of us - myself, Colin Salisman and Nick Richards. We all work extremely well together in order to identify needs and find suitable housing solutions. Colin is a fantastic manager who is extremely knowledgable, and is always there to offer advice and guidance when it is needed. He has also entrusted me with a lot of responsibilities during the year, which has given me the opportunity to take on many challenges, giving me the space to thrive. 

Nick joined BCHA a few months after me, and has been an incredible colleague to work alongside. We have been able to support each other throughout, especially during lockdown. Our efficient teamwork allows us to individually lead on certain projects, but to always be there to contribute and collaborate where needed.

I enjoy being at the intersection between external partners (contractors, developers, local authorities and Homes England), as well as internal stakeholders such as Asset Management, Compliance, and Housing. Being this lynchpin can be quite challenging as there needs to be clear communication between people to ensure everyone knows what is happening, and questions are answered. This challenge is something that I thrive on as I know this is an important element for our team to succeed. 

As part of an effective strategy to improve communication, I created and manage the Development Team’s pages on BCHA’s intranet. These include information about past, present and future projects that we are working on. It enables other BCHA colleagues to gain a better understanding of what we have been able to achieve and what we are looking to do next. 

During lockdown, I was fortunate enough to be able to continue working as normal – albeit from home. Although there were external factors, such as furlough, contractors stopping site work, reduced working hours etc, we were still kept very busy, and were even able to complete on some property acqusitons. Working remotely produced its own challenges, but our team has kept in touch constantly via Teams, Zoom, Whatsapp, email and telephone. 

Personal integrity is very important to effectively carry out this role. This is because we need to be open and transparent about our work, ensuring we communicate with people so they are continually updated about the different projects. Likewise, I have found on many occasions, I have been asked something that I do not know the answer for. Being honest and saying that I do not have the answer, but I will endeavour to find out, is much better than attempting to immediately offer a solution that likely is not correct.

This directly links with working together as a team. I rely heavily on the other members of the Development Team, as well as other departments, in order for me to be successful in my job role. There needs to be cohesion between colleagues to achieve our objectives – nobody can do it on their own. 

Being able to find suitable housing for our customers is a very exciting responsibility to have. I really enjoy seeing how plans, negotiations and building sites progress and take shape (for new-build developments), as well as viewing properties and discussing them with estate agents for off-the-shelf purchases. 

During my time here, I think I have three main achievements:

  1. With the support of others, I have been able to successfully identify five off-the-shelf one-bed flats in Plymouth for move-on accommodation. I have been with these throughout the duration, from finding them on Rightmove, to arranging viewings, negotiating prices and grant submissions, the legal procedure, and then finally completing on the purchases
  2. I feel like I have really grown within the role and within BCHA as an organisation. I am confident and comfortable talking with people from different departments. This friendly and welcoming atmosphere has obviously changed during lockdown as you do not see people every day. However, I am often on the phone to people and can have catch ups when I do, which is something I enjoy.
  3. In the wake of the BLM movement, I wanted to see what more BCHA could do to be a leader for racial justice. I have discussed this internally to try and implement sustainable and effective change. As a result, BCHA is looking at different feasible options, and am proud that this is an issue we are wanting to address, so I am happy to have started the conversation, and to be a part of this. 

Although I do not engage with customers on the frontline, I am very aware of how important my role is to provide suitable accommodation. The process of identifying potential properties, through to getting the keys can be a long and challenging one. However, it is a really nice feeling to know that this property will provide – not just shelter – but a foundation in which someone can really thrive.

I am really greatful that I have been a part of implementing change at BCHA. Being given the freedom and opportunity to bring an issue, such as racial inequality, to a director and really figure out a plan of action is something I am thrilled to have done. There is the possibility that this might not have developed into anything if I were at another organisation. The fact that BCHA is continually wanting to do right by its staff and customers is a credit to its leadership.

 At BCHA I have learned so much about project management and the importance of keeping people up to date with any new developments. This is vital in order to effectively progress a project. The skills acquired through this will be very beneficial in any future work that I do.

 

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