Having effectively worked for the same housing provider for the past 30 years, making the switch to DAMHA was a big step for Michael Wright.
In the end it was the human factor – both in terms of the people he’d be working with and for – that persuaded him to leave housing giant Karbon and accept the post of Operations Director with Durham Aged Mineworkers’ Homes Association.
“The most important people are the residents, and I am happy to work in a sector that delivers quality homes at a cost affordable to the local community,” said Michael.
“It was also important that I already knew and respected many of the team at DAMHA and that I can maintain links with the people at Karbon to exchange information of mutual benefit in delivering what are similar aims.”
Now 54, Michael qualified as a joiner after leaving school and when recession hit the industry took the opportunity to enrol in a business studies course combining University and practical work.
“In our second year we were expected to find work experience for 30 weeks. I gained a place with the housing department of Derwentside District Council and ended up there for 30 years,” said Michael.
Responsibility for housing passed to Derwentside Homes which later merged with two other providers to form Karbon, one of the largest Housing Associations in the north with responsibility for over 32,000 homes.
Over the 30 years this gave Michael the opportunity to broaden his skills into surveying, grounds maintenance and customer service and to help deliver some major capital schemes.
He may well have stayed there for life but was persuaded to consider the job at DAMHA by former colleagues who had made the move.
“That was very important to me, they assured me of the commitment the company has towards its residents,” said Michael.
With a role that encompasses oversight of the housing team including planned maintenance, compliance, and customer service the job has a steady cycle of day-to-day issues as well as the unexpected.
Recently this has included national issues such as damp and mould, asbestos, cladding and most recently, aerated concrete known as RAAC.
“We have over 1800 homes and the benefit of having a number of staff who have been here many years means we have that knowledge and insight to quickly identify which properties fell into the time frame,” said Michael. “We have found that none of our properties are affected which is good for us and provides re-assurance for residents.”
Providing the opportunity for feedback from residents is key to Michael’s thinking and that includes regular meetings with the gardening club and a residents’ scrutiny panel.
“It’s very important that we know the views of residents and can meet or hopefully exceed their expectations with the resources available,” he said. “If we can’t do that, we need to be honest with residents about what is achievable.”
Outside of work Michael finds the best way to de-stress is regular 5-a-side football sessions with long term friends and walks around the Northumberland countryside with his wife Catherine.