• Niyaa People

Equal Housing - An Interview With Faisal Butt

Earlier on in the year we launched our Equal Housing campaign which highlighted the Diversity issue within Leadership roles in the Housing sector.

With our event on 7th February 2019 drawing ever closer, for our second installment I spoke to Faisal Butt, Lead Commissioner for Housing at Barnet Council to discuss why he chose to get into Social Housing, the challenges he has overcome and his views on the future of the industry.

Faisal’s career speaks for itself. Housing Heroes’ ‘Inspirational Leader of the Year 2018’, shortlisted on Inside Housing’s BME Leaders 2018, CIH Chair for London and UK Housing Fast campaign co-founder.

-Interviewed by Ben Farquharson

BF: You have had a decorated career since graduating in 2004, why did you choose Social Housing as a career?

FB: I wanted to help people and therefore stepped into a career that has a sense of social purpose. Everyone deserves the basic necessities in life such as shelter, which is a basic human right. Supporting people and giving them access to homes certainly provides me with purpose and this is part of my motivation and values as a person.

BF: Faisal on a personal note you have had a great year, how have the awards and recognition come about for you?

FB: I think the nomination for award and the Inside Housing BME list was due to developing and building relationships through social media. For example, the national food poverty charity I help co-ordinate has over 200 Housing associations participating in the campaign every year. I am not a CEO, but showcasing leadership at every level through the various projects and initiatives I am involved in helped!

Proactive and prominent in networking and social media, Faisal is of course making reference to his involvement in #UKHousingFast. A social media campaign that aims to raise awareness of food poverty, celebrate the diversity of those living and working in social housing. With over 250,000 social media users reached through the campaign it has raised more than £10,000 in donations. Faisal is also heavily involved with CIH and their Futures program with is an initiative that brings young people from around the country together to lead on different projects and campaigns

BF: You have worked for a number of local authorities and associations, what challenges and obstacles do you feel that you have you had to overcome?

FB: Sometimes it does not feel like a level playing field and that I have had to work harder for the same opportunities as my colleagues. I think more needs to be done to push the equality agenda and we need to work collaboratively as a sector to achieve this.

BF: Do the figures representing a lack of BME leaders concern you and how do you feel it affects your own future?

FB: Over the past year, there has been a strong emphasis on making the sector more diverse with campaigns such as Leadership 2025 and getting more diverse panels at housing conferences. I still feel there is a long way to go in terms of establishing an equal platform. People like Steve Douglas and Tom Murtha have rightly campaigned and actively worked to improve diversity, develop leaders and push for more representation. It is up to Future leaders like myself to continue to build a profile for BME leaders in order to establish credibility in the sector and to act as mentors for those emerging BME leaders of tomorrow.

BF: With that in mind, what advice would you give to those beginning their careers within the sector?

FB: It really is not about your age, if you are good enough you are old enough. Expand your own knowledge and network to seek support and feedback if you are unsuccessful. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid of change, if those opportunities are not available in your current organisation, go out and seek them elsewhere.

Niyaa People have been running an Equal Housing Campaign over the the last few months, and will continue to be profiling colleagues within the sector who are of BME backgrounds to share success stories and discuss the barriers they feel they have had to overcome within the sector. This will continue until we host an event on 07.02.19 around the Diversity issue in senior roles within the Housing sector. Our aim is to highlight and facilitate the conversation in the Midlands area and have extended the invitation to senior leaders from housing associations and local authorities across the region to be part of the discussion. This has been well received early on and we have had commitment of attendance from a number of organisations.

Faisal will be part of the panel at the Equal Housing event in February.

Check out our first installment with Grand Union CEO Aileen Evans

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