Grand Union mourns death of Steve Benson

Steve Benson

We’re sad to announce that Steve Benson, our former Board Chair, has died.

He passed away early on Sunday 14 April, with his family by his side.

Steve, a former President of the Chartered Institute of Housing, had been living with cancer for over a year. He stepped down from his role as Chair on 31 March 2024.

Aileen Evans, Group Chief Executive said: “Everyone at Grand Union is deeply saddened by the news of Steve’s death.

“I’ve never met anyone quite like him and I’ll miss him personally as will Grand Union as an organisation. Grand Union is all the better for him being part of us for all too short a time. Despite his cancer, Steve carried out his duties as Chair with diligence, kindness and compassion – just five short weeks ago he undertook a newbuild stock tour following which he chaired what was to be his final Board meeting.

“Many in the sector will be shocked by his untimely death but we should celebrate the vast legacy he left – his work in housing has positively impacted upon thousands of people. He was a fearless champion for those who are homeless or badly housed and gave freely of his time to many organisations in pursuit of his goal that everyone had a decent home.

“Despite only being with Grand Union for two years, he made a really big impact on Board members and colleagues alike. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time.”

Steve was brought up in Stevenage in the 1960s and whilst not being aware of it at the time, those early experiences of being brought up in a New Town with all the community development activities that were happening organically around him, were to have quite an influence on his future housing career.

Steve enjoyed what a nearly 50-year career in housing, starting at Welwyn-Hatfield Council in 1975. After moving to the south coast, Steve had leadership roles in a variety of local housing authorities until the year 2000. He then moved to the housing association world, where he led several small, medium and large organisations.

The last ten years of his working life were as chief executive of the homeless charity Two Saints, which he always described as the happiest of his career. During his time with Two Saints the organisation doubled in size and got involved in a range of new areas of work including mental health.

Throughout his housing career Steve was very involved in his professional body, the Chartered Institute of Housing. Over the years he chaired both their policy and professional development Boards and was their Treasurer for many years. He went on to be the CIH President in 2008/09, a period dominated by the financial crash, during which time he engaged with three Housing Ministers in Caroline Flint, Margaret Beckett and John Healey.

Steve also held a range of other governance roles including serving as a statutory appointee on the Board of Teign Housing in Devon, on the Group Board of Jephson, shortly before their merger with Raglan to form Stonewater and chairing Croydon Churches Housing Association for six-years. He also served on the Board of Homeless Link, the umbrella body for homelessness charities in England, where he chaired their governance committee.

Most recently Steve was the Chair of Grand Union Housing Group, a role he was looking forward to continuing for many years to come. Unfortunately, his ill health brought that to a premature end.

In February of this year, Steve was awarded an honorary life fellowship of the Chartered Institute of Housing, which was presented at the Presidential dinner in London by Geraldine Howley, the chair of the CIH Board and the guest speaker Sir Keir Starmer.