Deborah Heenan, Populo Living CEO Nominated for Woman of the Year

Posted 01 May 2024

Populo Living are delighted that Deborah Heenan, our CEO has been shortlisted for the Women in Housing Awards. The awards celebrate the leaders, innovators and change-makers across the sector, shining a light on the incredible work spear-headed by them over the past 12 months.

Under Deborah’s leadership, Populo has experienced substantial growth, emerging as one of the largest and most successful council-owned housing companies. Since 2018, the company has built and manages nearly 800 homes, with an additional 75 homes currently under construction. This achievement underscores Deb and Populo's unwavering commitment to addressing the pressing issue of housing affordability in the borough. In the past 12 months alone, under Deb’s guidance, Populo has successfully added circa 300 properties to its portfolio, a testament to her leadership during challenging economic times.

Deb's dedication extends beyond the company's growth to the professional development of her team. Recognising disparities in a male-dominated industry, she is deeply invested in ensuring that all team members, especially women, are provided with ample opportunities to excel. Her commitment to fostering an inclusive environment where women flourish and receive equitable rewards is evident in her hands-on approach to mentorship.

“Deb is a leader who encourages and nurtures other women. She has been a part of my professional journey and continues to support me in my role. She gives me the confidence to make decisions, gives me space to be innovative and allows room for growth in an ever-changing sector.”Afsana Begum, Head of Housing and Customer Services.

Deborah's leadership at Carpenters Estate earned the trust and support of residents, resulting in LLDC approval for 2,000+ new and refurbished homes. Her inclusive approach led to a resident-led design, reflecting her commitment to community engagement. With approximately 3,000 homes in pipeline, Populo is poised to achieve its long-term investment goals.

Deb has introduced innovative strategies like AirSpace and Great Green Loft initiatives, to maximise bed space and improve insulation standards to reduce carbon footprint and household bills. Her solutions not only address housing shortages but also enhance existing stock quality, a model she shares with other local authorities.

Deb’s strategic leadership is evident in Populo’s ambitious goals, including managing 2,000 new homes in Newham by 2030 and delivering over £5 million in social value through construction activity by 2023-24. These goals align with her commitment to enhancing affordability and resident satisfaction, driving organisational success while benefiting Newham residents.

Despite recent economic challenges, Deb’s relentless drive and commitment have propelled Populo Living's growth from 45 to over 60 employees in the past year. While similar organisations may be slowing down, Deb’s steadfast determination is pushing Newham housing delivery forward. She ensures that at least 50% of the staff are either based locally or have ties and connections with the borough, reinforcing Populo’s deep-rooted commitment to serving and empowering the community.

Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony, taking place on Monday 24 June 2024.

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