Speaker Biographies

Paddy Gray
Professor of Housing, Ulster University

Recent research includes the private rented sector, the allocation of social housing in NI, the evaluation of floating support services in NI, the evaluation of the HIA, the cost of building social housing in rural areas, the evaluation of accommodation standards for travellers, studies on integrated housing, and creating sustainable communities.

Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing he became its first Irish and first academic President in June 2010. He is currently Chief Examiner for the Chartered Institute of Housing UK and Hong Kong, External Examiner for housing programmes at Anglia Ruskin University in Essex.

He was awarded a Distinguished Community Fellowship at the University of Ulster in 2004 for outstanding work in the community and in 2006 was appointed Visiting Professor of Real Estate at Spiru Haret University, Romania. 

 He has recently been awarded an honorary Fellowship of RICS.

 More information can be found here -


Professor Ken Gibb, University of Glasgow

Ken is a professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences in the subject area of Urban Studies. He has been a full time member of staff at the University in various guises since 1989. He was an ESRC research fellow until his appointment as a lecturer in 1994. After becoming a senior lecturer in 1999 and a Reader in 2001, he became a professor in 2006. Ken was also Head of the Department of Urban Studies from 2005 to 2010 and associate dean of the Faculty of Law, Business and Social Sciences in 2009-10. Ken is also the Director of Policy Scotland, the University hub for policy research and knowledge exchange.

Ken's research interests are focused on the economic, financial and policy dimensions of housing. He has carried out research for government departments, ESRC, Jospeh Rowntree Foundation, trade bodies, the private sector and international organisations like OECD. His current interests are on the financing and economics of social and affordable housing, and, the application of behavioural economics to housing. 

Ken has been the managing editor of the Urban Studies journal and was a trustee of the Urban Studies Foundation. He is immediate past president of RC43 (housing) of the International Sociological Association and is a former president of the European Real Estate Society. He sits on four editorial advisorial boards. He was a visiting professor to the University of Amsterdam in 2011. He has recently acted as advisor to the Scottish Parliament's Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee. He has also worked for the Scottish Parliament's Welfare Reform Committee.

After a period on the national board of Sanctuary Housing Association, Ken sits currently on the board of Sanctuary Scotland Housing Association.


Grainia Long

Grainia Long is Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, the professional body for people involved in housing - with over 22,000 members internationally.  She was responsible for corporate strategy and business in Northern Ireland before being made Interim Chief Executive in August 2011.

Grainia’s key focus is on working with the Governing Board to create a long-term vision for how CIH can help meet the nation’s housing aspirations. As Chief Executive, Grainia’s priority is to oversee ongoing change and growth in the organisation while ensuring CIH delivers its core objectives. Her role ranges from working with the board to take strategic decisions affecting the organisation, setting and reviewing long-term business objectives, and ensuring CIH has the right resources in place to deliver the business. Grainia works with senior managers across the organisation to ensure CIH provides leadership to the sector, has a clear view of the world and articulates this effectively to members and the wider sector.

Grainia’s previous experience includes roles as Principal Adviser to the Commission on the Future for Housing in Northern Ireland from 2008-2010, and Director of Policy at the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. Prior to this, she worked in Scotland for the housing and homelessness charity, Shelter.  She is a member of the Institute of Directors, and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. She was recently appointed as a Commissioner to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.  


Alistair McIntosh

Chief Executive of HQN, Alistair McIntosh is a frequent contributor to the leading housing magazines and to the Guardian Housing Network. He is a highly rated conference speaker and regularly leads board strategy days for a huge variety of landlords. Alistair set up and led a housing trade body for ten years, and served on Grant Shapps’ mobility task force. He worked closely with the regulator to establish the standards for housing. Alistair developed an approach to value for money and recently co-authored a guide to it which was praised by housing minister Mark Prisk as 'very much chiming with the government's thinking'. Alistair is the author of HQN’s governance guide and founded The Governor magazine.


Kathleen McKillon, Irish Council for Social Housing

To be updated shortly..


John O’Connor, Chief Executive, Housing Agency

John is the Chief Executive of the Housing Agency, which is a statutory body set up under the aegis of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.The Housing Agency provides support and advice to the Department, local authorities and housing associations on the delivery of housing and housing services.

John, himself, is a structural engineer and has a wide range of experience across both the public and private sectors. He has a background and significant knowledge in area of building control. Recently he chaired a construction industry working group which developed the draft on which the Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Buildings and Works is based. The working group also considered the wording of the statutory certificates that form part of the new building control regulations. 


Peter Walls 
Group Chief Executive, Gentoo Group

Peter Walls has worked in housing throughout his career and held a senior executive position since the early age of 26. Positions include being housing executive of Washington Development Corporation, director of housing, and then health and housing for the Sunderland City Council and group chief executive of Sunderland Housing Group which re-branded to Gentoo Group in 2007.

In addition, Peter has chaired Two Castles Housing Association for 10 years, the Northern Consortium of Housing Authorities for seven years and is a former branch chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing.

“For the inspirational element - a great innovator within the sector”
Tim Doyle, Chief Executive, City West Housing Trust


Mary Taylor, Chief Executive, SFHA

Mary has been CEO at SFHA since 2010. She's spent almost 35 years in the Scottish housing sector to date. Before joining SFHA, she was a Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Stirling. While working as an academic, Mary advised the Scottish Parliament on stock transfer, worked as a consultant on various projects and undertook a secondment with the Regulator, focused on business intelligence.

She started out as a Trainee at SSHA and was Director of Elderpark Housing Association in Govan for six years. She served on the Council of the SFHA while at Elderpark and in a personal capacity as a committee member at Clydesdale. She supported the development and management of housing associations during while working freelance in the 80s. She is a Fellow of CIH and has served on the CIH Scotland Board. She received an honorary fellowship of RICS in 2013.


Cameron Watt is the Chief Executive of NIFHA.

Previously he led a policy team at the National Housing Federation, the voice of affordable housing in England.

Cameron also worked in the Renewing One Nation team at Conservative Central Office, helped Iain Duncan Smith establish the Centre for Social Justice, and as its Deputy Director contributed significantly to its award-winning publication Breakthrough Britain.


Steve Stride, Vice President, CIH

To be updated shortly..


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