Fair housing for all
11 May 2020 at 8:26 am
As the managing director of Community Housing Limited, Steve Bevington is on a mission to provide affordable housing for vulnerable people in Australia and across the world. He’s this week’s Changemaker.
Bevington’s career in community housing started unofficially back in the 70’s, where he became involved in a huge UK squatting movement that saw an entire community of young single people move into a street of empty and abandoned houses marked out by town planners for slum clearance in central London.
In the years following, he helped form a social housing cooperative designed to get young homeless people into housing in London and surrounding areas.
After moving to Australia in the late 80’s with his family, he took on the task of setting up Community Housing Limited, with his personal experiences of living in housing poverty informing the way the organisation has grown into what it is today.
CHL has grown from providing care in only Victoria, to overseeing 11,000 houses across Australia, South America, South East Asia, South Asia and, most recently, Africa.
In this week’s Changemaker, Bevington talks about keeping purpose at his core, what inspires him and what he wants to achieve.
How did you first get involved in the community housing sector?
My very first venture was with a group of young single people all squatting down one side of a street in central London, where we later formed a cooperative to assist homeless single people who weren’t getting any access to housing at the time.
That was my first foray into it, and then because I was heavily involved in campaigning around housing issues throughout the 80’s, I went to Australia where I started up CHL.
CHL now runs in many countries around the world, how have you maintained impact with growth?
I have a great team of staff and management behind me. They are extremely good implementers and are also very attentive to a huge range of issues. I also think as long as you have the fundamentals – which are providing a good quality, well-located home people can call their own, and provide good quality maintenance services, then the rest falls into place.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do. It involves a whole suite of policies to keep yourself on track and the right kinds of operating systems.
How do you go about managing a team that works across the globe?
We adopted technology pretty early on and have been using teleconferencing systems for the past 20 years, and then video conferencing as it developed. We have a management team to fly around to our offices and keep face-to-face contact with people.
It’s a matter of coordinating a really efficient contact regime. I also think it’s really important for me to make myself present in all of our locations with some regularity so that I get some visibility of what’s happening in actuality as well as people telling me.
What is one thing you want to achieve by the end of your career?
Well, one thing I would love is for all of our international services to be self-sufficient and sustainable and be able to grow in the regions that they serve. I would like us to be able to get into the Northern Territory, which we are aiming to do fairly soon.
I’d really like to see the strong development of Aboriginal Community Housing Limited, which is a national provider organisation that we auspiced and has tremendous potential to improve housing conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia.
I am definitely less interested in starting up new ventures at this time, and would like to see those ventures which have recently started grow and prosper.
What do you love most about your job?
What I love most is to create a secure base in people’s lives for those that have not been dealt the best hand in terms of their livelihood or circumstances and therefore struggled in the housing market.
Another side is to be able to advocate for changes in the institutional arrangements to provide housing in all the countries we work in.