Certified Housing Professional: Bobby Semau, City Housing, Wellington City Council

Name: Bobby Semau


Community Advisor, City Housing, Wellington City Council

Certification Level: Level 1

Years in Housing: 2


Why did you seek accreditation?

“For me, it’s mostly about trying to stay sharp. Having to pursue CPD (continuing professional development) points constantly acts as a motivation to make sure you are staying current with professional development, and it’s a good way for me to find opportunities to make connections within the industry and other opportunities for professional development through the AHI. I also think that being a CHP adds a certain level of legitimacy to anyone who is working within housing.”

What does a day in your life look like? Do you have a routine?

“I have a routine but it’s based more on a weekly or fortnightly schedule rather than a daily one. It really does depend on the day. My role has a 50/50 mix of office time and on-site time. When I’m on-site, I’m out there talking to our tenants, finding out what’s going on in their lives, and seeing how we can try drawing their community together and support it to be stronger. A lot of that is based around direct action with the tenants but also getting them involved in programs that we offer – whether the programs are based around housing itself or gardening or singing (we have a choir) or health – all sorts of things that we try and get our tenants involved in. We also connect them with external agencies that can provide services that will be positive for them. I have other meetings with external organisations as well. My day is all about finding out how we can help our tenants, essentially.”

How do you think you can personally contribute/improve the housing industry as a CHP?

“I’m relatively new to the industry. I’ve only been in housing for two years. I used to be an English teacher for speakers of other languages, ESOL, so a lot of my work was with migrants and refugees. There’s a certain perspective I can bring in from there. I also used to do a lot of work with youth – I was a reliever in early childhood education centres and I used to coordinate a school holiday program – so working with youth is another thing I feel I can bring to this role. Essentially, within my role now, it’s based around community so I’m trying to introduce perspectives from different areas within the social housing community.”

What is your secret housing ‘weapon’?

“I don’t know if it’s a weapon but I would say empathy. Within social housing organisations, there’s a million and one policies and procedures that are all there for good reasons but, if you’re focusing on them all the time, then it’s easy to lose perspective of what tenants’ daily lives are like and how things are from their perspective. So I think it’s good to always come at things with empathy and look at the situation as if you were the tenant. What is it like for them and how can we improve their situation?”

How do you think the housing industry compares to other industries in terms of recognising its professionals?

“Yeah, I’m not sure about the industry as a whole but certainly the AHI’s CHP program is the only one I know of. I know there are certain awards that are available but the AHI’s awards really are the only ones that I’m familiar with – certainly in this area of the world [New Zealand]. As far as professional development goes, I think City Housing is quite good at offering opportunities to us who are employed here. But it’s also, to a large degree, a matter of going out and finding out what’s available yourself and, for me personally, that’s mostly happened through other members of my team.”

What do you hope this accreditation will mean to you and others in the future?

“I really hope being a CHP becomes well known as a qualification or an accreditation that denotes people who are really investing time and energy into their own careers and into the profession. I would hope that, 10 years from now, being known as a CHP means someone is working for the betterment of people living in social housing, or in housing in general.”

If you were to make a desert island your home, what five things would you take with you and why?

“That’s a tricky one. Firstly, I’m going to count my family as one thing so I’d take my family. I’ve got a wife and a son and, as long as they were there, I think I’d be able to make do. The other four things would likely be practical things. I’d take a nice, big sharp machete – good for opening coconuts and chopping wood, and possibly even defense if attacked by animals on the island. I’m a vegetarian but, on a desert island, I’d probably start eating anything that I could catch so I’d take a net to catch fish and possibly sling it up between some trees and use it as a hammock as well. And I’d take a cast-iron frying pan for cooking but it could come in handy to use as a shield in combination with the machete. And I’d take some rope, just because it seems like something practical to have.”

Click here for more information about becoming a Certified Housing Professional.