Born: September 8, 1955;

Died: August 26, 2020

ALAN Ferguson, who has died aged 64, did a great deal to enhance the status and increase the influence of the housing profession in Scotland. His approach was grounded in a belief in social justice and empathy for tenants and the homeless. His commitment to equality involved supporting new initiatives and organisations, and assisting those who represented the most excluded and unrepresented in Scottish society.

He had studied at the University of the West of Scotland and then, to further his interest in community work, at Dundee College of Education.

His experience as a community worker and campaigner in Glasgow, Cambuslang and Wishaw between 1979 and 1988 was crucial to the impact he would make in his career. Working for community groups, he found he was spending more and more time on housing issues, gaining first-hand experience of the effects of poor-quality housing and poor service. This drove him to study housing at Glasgow University.

He joined the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland (CIHS) as a policy officer in 1988, and the following year began lecturing on housing studies at the University of Stirling. In 1993 he returned to CIHS, as Director; this gave him an unrivalled opportunity, which he grasped with both hands, to influence housing policy and practice, drive up standards and contribute to ensuring a better Scotland.

He consistently and effectively highlighted the role which housing could play in improving people’s lives. He built relationships that led to the institute becoming a respected and influential voice on policy and legislation.

Scotland led the UK in its approach to the private rented sector. He fought hard to end the Right to Buy, to win a right to consultation for social housing tenants, and to influence the new Scottish Housing Regulator’s framework. Scotland is rightly proud of the emphasis placed on housing by successive governments since devolution. There is no doubt that Alan left his mark on much of the resultant legislation and on many politicians.

The SCIH conference became a major event: he introduced international speakers and encouraged institute members to look beyond Scotland for good practice. He worked with the Hong Kong branch and with other social justice organisations to share ideas in Europe. At home, he built lasting relationships between the institute’s Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland branches, and served as temporary Director of the Northern Ireland Office.

He promoted equality initiatives, for example, as a founding trustee and office bearer of PATH (Scotland). PATH promotes positive action for BAME housing professionals as they start their careers. Its director, Najimee Parveen, : “We saw him as a trusted friend who displayed warmth, humour and creativity at all times.” Robina Qureshi, Positive Action in Housing’s Director, adds: “Alan was a great supporter – intelligent, funny and argumentative but never judgmental, and that was the special thing about him.”

His commitment included serving, in his own time, the boards of housing associations including Link, Cube, and Southside in Glasgow. At Link, he promoted tenant board membership which led to a tenant majority on the Board. He never forgot his community work background and when presented with projects and proposals he would ask, “What’s in it for the tenants?” Indeed, he never stopped wearing the earring from his community worker days, which seemed to symbolise that background.

He left the Southside association last year, having chaired the commercial subsidiary for five crucial years during which it established two distinct brands and expanded its factoring, mid-market renting, and new private letting businesses.

As a board member at Govanhill Community Development Trust, he made a major contribution to its strategic direction, establishing a combination of income-generating commercial activity with community development work. It is now one of the most important anchor organisations in Govanhill, helping the diverse communities that live there.

Alan had increased CIHS membership, member involvement and influence on housing policy in his 21 years as Scottish Director but he left in 2014 after a poorly-thought-out cost-cutting restructure which removed both the Welsh and Scottish Director posts.

Fortunately for those running housing associations, he became the Director of SHARE, the learning and development organisation for Housing in Scotland. He turned it around, building a very successful team. At SHARE he continued to be a role model and leader – available to lend a hand, and offer support when needed, all in a kind, clever and thoughtful way.

Alan was a proud father to Mike, Anna and Laura. He married, for the second time, in 2006, to his soulmate, Jenny. They loved food, travel and cooking. From Orkney to Marseilles and Pisa to Cuba, he and Jenny loved exploring the culture and perhaps mostly, the cuisine.

Alan was an inspiration to many, and the epitome of an outstanding policy analyst and strategist whose work was always based on sound values and a commitment to social justice. The housing profession is full of staff who have benefited from Alan’s advice, help and support over many years and they will all miss his contribution and his company.