Working in housing is all about helping people to have a decent living environment!
Making sure people have a place to come home to is what makes a career in housing so rewarding. The housing industry offers a career that allows you to make a real difference to people’s lives on a practical and tangible level. If you choose to work in this sector, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your contribution matters because everyone needs somewhere decent to live.
While the work isn’t always easy, the roles available are varied, there are many opportunities for progression and the sense of job satisfaction can be high.
According to the Chartered Institute of Housing, more than 150,000 people work in the affordable housing industry in the UK, mostly for local authorities and housing associations. Housing jobs can also be found with cooperatives, housing trusts and voluntary organisations, in the private sector and public service departments such as NHS trusts and social services.
One of the key things to keep in mind when it comes to the housing industry is that it’s as much about the people who require the houses as the structures themselves. The economic climate has caused an increase in demand for social housing – properties that are let to low-income households or those in need of a home by either not-for-profit housing associations or local authorities.
There are 1.8 million people on social housing waiting lists and this figure is rising. As many as one in four people are waiting for social housing in parts of London, while it is affecting one in six in other parts of the country. There are simply not enough “affordable” homes and, as a result, people are turning to the rental market as they are unable to get on to the property ladder.
Private rents have steadily increased over the past five years, and are expected to rise faster than house prices over the next five, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
These increasing rents mean there are many who can’t afford to rent privately, so they turn to housing associations or councils for help. Often tenants living in social housing need more help than just a house – they may be unemployed, have physical or mental health issues, be on a low income and struggling to support themselves, or they may have been homeless.
Accommodation for these individuals is made affordable through state subsidy, which ensures those most in need have somewhere to live. Managing and maintaining the five million housing association and local council homes – and those who live in them – is carried out by a range of employees, from those who work hands-on with tenants to those who work behind the scenes ensuring the efficient running of the industry, in areas such as HR, marketing, IT and finance. Because of this, the industry is suitable for a variety of people.
Marija Vida is head of resource management and HR business partner at London housing association Peabody. “When I started working at Peabody I’d come from a financial and business background,” says Vida. “But I realised that working at this company would give me the chance to give something back to the community around me as well as to the company I was working for.
“It wasn’t just about money it was about helping people.”
Because housing stock and social conditions vary between urban and rural areas, location affects the nature of the work involved, which adds to the variety of the sector.
For example, your role may involve giving advice to homeless people on finding somewhere to live, managing empty properties or allocating houses to suitable tenants. On the other hand, you could be running a multi-million-pound organisation responsible for thousands of houses. Work very much depends on the organisation you work for, its size, location and objective.
Foot in the door
Entry is possible at junior level for those with GCSEs or equivalent. You can then work your way up through the ranks.
Entry at higher levels, including management, is for graduates and those who have studied for professional housing qualifications. As the professional body for the housing industry, the Chartered Institute of Housing offers a variety of qualifications for those looking to get started in housing or further develop their career.
Many housing associations also offer trainee schemes for graduates. These programmes, which last for one or two years, allow graduates to develop well-rounded experience and knowledge of housing while earning a competitive salary. Trainee schemes are accessible for those with related and non-related degree subjects.
Another entry route into the housing industry is through an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship. These involve structured training with an employer, combined with study sessions, and lead to qualifications at Levels 2 and 3.
Higher-education courses in housing and associated subjects, such as community development and leadership, are available on a full or part-time basis. Degree courses require A-levels, an access to higher education diploma or equivalent to enrol. Postgraduate courses are also available.
A good starting point for anyone interested in a career in housing is to contact the National Careers Service for advice (see below).
How much can I earn?
Pay varies depending on the employer, but housing assistants earn on average around £18,000 a year. A housing officer’s salary is in the region of £22,000 to £30,000, while managers can expect £30,000-plus, rising to £50,000 or more for senior managers and directors.
What skills do I need?
- An interest in people and their living conditions
- Good communication and negotiation skills
- A flexible approach to working
- Business management skills
- Good organisational skills
- The ability to work under pressure and to meet deadlines
- Where necessary, a knowledge of any relevant legislation including building construction, tenants’ rights and government policy