Chris Carroll: My chance journey to a housing career
Ahead of Scottish Housing Day, Chris Carroll shares his journey to becoming a co-ordinator - housing policy and strategy at South Ayrshire Council.
My housing career started by chance actually. I left school at 18, with reasonable grades but no inclination for Uni or further studies at that time. In short, I did not know what to do. Enjoying the summer I knew that I would need to start looking for something somewhere and I happened upon an advert for Skillseekers for South Ayrshire Council. So I tried my luck, and was fortunate enough to land one of the Skillseeker slots.
Not knowing where I was going on that first day or where I would end up had me really quite nervous and along with another new recruit we were dropped off at the local Housing Office. I had no real idea what a Housing Office was about other than the Cooncil provided Hooses. Instantly loved it. I had great mentors and had an opportunity to sample all the various core components of what a Housing Service provided at that time, from the rent section, to allocations, to repairs and having the opportunity to meet people supporting the Housing Officers on their visits. I knew quite quickly that this could be a career for me and was lucky enough to find a permanent role within the allocations team.
A few years later the next door opened when I moved into the Homeless and Housing Options team where I was able to move through a variety of roles from visiting our dispersed accommodation to helping those in homeless situations achieve the best outcome they could as a Housing Options Officer and then to supervising the team that visited our Accommodation. In all my 20-plus years so far I can quite easily say the Housing Options Officer role was the one that I learned the most in and probably where I realised that Housing has an extremely important part to play in people’s lives. It was here I heard the most awful life situations, where we see the sharp end of our challenges and issues as a sector and was here you learn about the huge compassion and willingness from people to help others as well. Horrible but inspiring at the same time.
In the past 5 plus years I have been more involved with the Housing Strategy side of services with a focus of the Private Sector (so Landlord Registration, Empty Homes, Scheme of Assistance, Private Rented Sector standards, HMO Licencing and for my sins Short Term Let licensing to name a few). This has also allowed the chance to be involved in the development of our key strategic documents like the Local Housing Strategy, Housing Need and Demand Assessment and our Affordable Housing Supply Programme reported via the Strategic Housing Investment Plans. This has led me to my current position of Coordinator for Housing Policy and Strategy in South Ayrshire.
I am fortunate enough to have been supported by my colleagues, mentors, peers and the Council throughout my career to the point I achieved my Masters in Housing Studies in 2021. Something an 18-year-old me would have scoffed at! This sector makes you passionate, supportive and wanting to achieve better outcomes for people. We realise that your home is truly a right and strive to make our houses a better place for people, regardless of what genre of the sector you are in.
I consider myself lucky….lucky to have ended up where I am, lucky to have been dropped off at a Housing Office in September 2002 but I shouldn’t have been…. We need to work harder and better to promote the sector as a career choice. To mentor those that are new into the journey and have a passion for change regardless of role.
I am happy to do my bit.