People of Populo - Meet Afsana Begum, Head of Housing

Posted 22 January 2024

It's a pleasure to have you here today. Could you share with us how long you've been a part of the Populo team?

"I joined Populo in August 2021, so it's been a little over two years now. My journey began as a housing officer, and I am now the Head of Housing, so it has been quite a transformative experience."

As Head of Housing, could you provide insights into your role and the projects you oversee, including the number of residents you look after?

"In my role as Head of Housing, I oversee all Populo Homes schemes, which encompasses over 230 homes, and it goes up to 250 once The Brickyard scheme in East Ham is complete and handed over to myself and my team. My responsibilities include managing a team of four personnel, handling repairs, inquiries, and auditing accounts, ensuring everything is in place for new schemes, and conducting checks and procedures before handover from developers."

Can you walk us through your career path that led to your current role?

"After graduating in international politics during a challenging economic period with the recession, I began volunteering at the local neighbourhood centre. This experience eventually led me to a role at Poplar HARCA, where I spent 10 years gaining valuable insights as a Housing Officer in lettings initially. I then transitioned to Notting Hill Genesis and Providence Row before coming across Populo Living. The start-up feel and the opportunity for personal and professional growth were compelling factors for me to join."

It's clear that your journey has been filled with significant milestones. What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far?

"The most memorable moment for me is my most recent, which was being promoted to Head of Housing after 18 months of handing over and letting 200 properties to new residents. It was a pivotal moment that affirmed my dedication to creating positive change in people's lives."

What do you enjoy most about your role, and has there been an event or moment that sticks with you?

"I find immense joy in the post-handover phase, especially when we deliver brand-new properties to individuals who have been on the housing list for years. Witnessing their emotional responses during these moments is a constant reminder of the impact we have on their lives."

It must be incredibly fulfilling. Shifting gears, what's your favourite development at Populo?

"Grange Road holds a special place for me. The style of the mansion block, combined with the spacious units, has created a real sense of community. The residents take great pride in their living spaces, fostering a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere."

Women make up around 14% of construction industry professionals in an industry that is typically male dominated. As a woman of colour, did you encounter any obstacles in climbing up the ranks to the position you're in today?

"I am grateful for the mentorship and support that I had as Housing Officer here at Populo, which empowered me to reach my current position. It was a process made easier through guidance and opportunities that allowed me to thrive in my role."

Given your remarkable journey so far, what unique qualities do you believe you bring to the table?

"What sets me apart is my lived experience. I reside in a housing association and live within a strong community, allowing me to deeply connect with residents and handle their needs with empathy and understanding, regardless of their emotions."

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