CEO of North Herts Homes takes over as HACT Chair as Tom Murtha steps down to focus on campaigning for social housing


Gavin Cansfield, CEO of North Hertfordshire Homes, was confirmed today as Chair of housing innovation agency HACT, replacing former Midland Heart CEO Tom Murtha, who has stood down after five years in post.

Tom Murtha said:

“I’ve massively enjoyed the last five years at HACT, helping it establish itself as a leading source of innovation and ideas in the social housing sector.  I am particularly grateful to both Board and staff for their support, energy and enthusiasm throughout that time, as we’ve pioneered work on social value, data, mapping, research and technology and taken forward fantastic research and partnerships. 

“Looking forward, I will be spending significantly more of my time on campaigning for a louder voice for social housing at a time when it is under greater threat that ever before.  That is not just about continuing to put pressure on government to recognise and invest in social housing as a critical part of our welfare settlement, rather than seeing it as a resource to take for granted and run down.  It is also about working to ensure that – at a time of massive change – housing retains a focus on its values.   Those values are what distinguish us as a sector, and we lose sight of them at our peril.”

Gavin Cansfield said:

“Almost every aspect of housing business is being transformed as financial pressures bite and organisations plan for a very different operating environment.  It wont be enough to simply do the same with less.  New ideas and radical innovation will be at a premium as we reinvent what being a housing provider is all about. 

“I am hugely grateful to Tom for his contribution to establishing HACT as a serious voice for innovation and change across the sector, and excited about where we go next.  I’m inheriting a great Board and staff team, and some fantastic projects and products – in particular around social value, business transformation, data and technology – that will drive the focus of our work during 2016.”

Matt Leach, CEO of HACT, said:

“Tom has been a fantastic chair, supportive, energetic, utterly committed to social housing.  Never satisfied with where the sector has got to, always excited about where it might go next.  We’ll miss his contribution hugely and wish him well in the next stage of his work with the housing sector. 

“I’m looking forward to working with Gavin on defining a future for HACT at a time when housing needs innovation and new thinking more than ever before.  The challenges set by the government in July require a complete reinvention of conventional business models, and call into question established models and institutions.   With his deep understanding of the housing sector, enthusiasm for new ideas and approaches, and willingness to question and challenge historic approaches, Gavin will provide fantastic leadership to HACT going forward.”


Gavin Cansfield is CEO at North Hertfordshire Homes.  He has spent almost 30 years in the housing sector, working in senior roles at Southern Housing Group, Hanover, what is now Midland Heart and, most recently, as  CEO of Tower Hamlets Homes.  Gavin previously served on HACT’s board from 2005-2014.  He has also served as HACT’s Treasurer and as Chair of HACT’s trading subsidiary HACTHAL.

Tom Murtha is blogger, columnist and social housing campaigner.  He is currently Chair of Governance at Plus Dane and Chair of Emmaus.  Prior to that Tom was CEO of Midland Area and Keynote before becoming CEO of Midland Heart.

HACT’s board currently includes Gavin Cansfield, Boris Worrall (Orbit Group), Davida Johnson (ex-Dow Petrochemicals), Jitinder Thakar (Spectrum Housing Group), John Wood (Riverside Group), Matthew Gardiner (Trafford Housing Trust) and Babu Bhattacherjee (Poplar HARCA).  Heather Bowman (Sovereign) and Paul Smith (formerly Aster Group) stood down alongside Tom at the conclusion of their terms as Board members.   A number of new appointments will be made over coming weeks further building HACT’s capacity to provide leadership and innovation across the housing sector.