JOHN COWARD, November, 2013

John Coward , who has died aged 88, was chief executive of the Notting Hill Housing Trust and a pioneer of shared ownership — a form of housing tenure in which a person buys a share in their home even if they cannot afford a mortgage on the whole value.
Coward joined the Trust in 1965, two years after its foundation by the Reverend Bruce Kenrick, a Presbyterian minister who would later found the homelessness charity Shelter.
The Notting Hill of the 1960s was not the location of second-hand bookshops, smart delicatessens, hip restaurants and seven- (or even eight-) figure house prices that it has become, but a mostly rundown corner of west London, notorious for race riots and the activities of the slum landlordPeterRachman.
Much of the area was populated by people — including many poor immigrants from the Caribbean — who were forced to live in crumbling, overcrowded accommodation. A survey in 1967 found that population density in the area was twice that of the borough of Kensington as a whole, and one of the highest in London; nearly half of all children lived in overcrowded conditions and 70 per cent of households shared, or had no access to, a bath or shower.
The Trust raised funds from the public to buy dilapidated properties at auction. By renovating these houses to provide decent, affordable rented housing, it was pivotal in preventing poor residents being pushed out of the area. When Coward joined as the Trust’s first paid executive it had five properties. When he retired 21 years later as chief executive, it was managing almost 8,000.
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Nine hundred of these were purchased under shared ownership arrangements, and it was Coward who pioneered the concept. Working with government and building societies, he launched the first “shared equity” or “community leasehold” schemes in the country. The first property to be sold in this way was at 88 Ladbroke Grove, and a team at the Housing Trust was established to develop the idea further. There are now an estimated 145,000 shared ownership properties in England alone.
John Coward was born on December 20 1924 in Cardiff. After education at Sheen Grammar School he served in the Signals Corps in India during the war, maintaining military communications from forts on the North-West Frontier, where he learned Urdu from Indian comrades.
He returned to England in 1947, just before Partition, and joined Hammersmith Council as General Assistant. After studying for housing exams he joined Richmond Council, where he remained until he moved to the Notting Hill Housing Trust.
Coward built strong relationships with people at all levels . As well as his work in Notting Hill, he served in the 1960s as a member of the Shelter board of trustees, and as a member of the National Federation of Housing Associations’ council and as chairman of its housing improvement committee, where he pressed for improved subsidy arrangements which were eventually incorporated in the 1974 Housing Act.
He was also a founder member of the London Housing Associations Committee and founding chairman of the United Housing Trust.
In the 1970s he became a founder member of the Family Housing Association, a member of the government’s Central Housing Policy Review Advisory Group and was appointed to the board of the Housing Corporation.
He was appointed OBE for services to housing in 1974.
After his retirement he took up flying and got a pilot’s licence; he enjoyed gardening and tending his allotment. In later life he moved to north Norfolk, but he remained interested and involved in housing through the Housing Corporation and the Sutton Trust, which he chaired from 1980 to 1984 and then again from 1994 to 1996.
John Coward married, in 1949, Helen Heal, who survives him with their two sons.
John Coward, born December 20 1924, died November 20 2013