A career in social housing may suit you if you're interested in helping vulnerable people, can juggle a busy workload and adapt quickly to change

As a housing manager, or housing officer, you'll manage housing and related services on behalf of housing associations, local authorities, charities and private sector organisations. Your role will involve managing a designated patch of housing and keeping in regular contact with tenants, looking after rental income and dealing with repairs and neighbour nuisance issues.

It's common practice to work with specific clients, such as homeless people, minority groups or people with disabilities. You may have line management responsibility for a team of housing officers, rent arrears staff and tenancy support officers and participation in more strategic projects.

Responsibilities

As a housing manager/officer, you'll need to:

  • set rents, administer collections and develop policies to deal with, and minimise, arrears
  • interview tenants and give advice on tenant-landlord relationships, house purchasing and benefits
  • inspect properties
  • process applications for housing improvements and repairs and communicating outcomes to tenants
  • manage improvement loans and grants and administering repair and maintenance programmes
  • manage nuisance orders, collect information and refer cases to the neighbourhood nuisance team
  • prepare cases and attend court hearings
  • handle breaches of tenancy and leasehold agreements, which could culminate in carrying out evictions
  • deal with abandoned tenancies, squatters and unauthorised occupiers
  • deal with housing applications and the transfer of existing tenants
  • liaise with tenant groups, local authority councillors, property professionals and other support and welfare organisations, including social workers and estate agents
  • communicate with wardens, caretakers, cleaners and maintenance staff
  • encourage and support tenants and residents groups and attend meetings as required
  • plan and implement slum clearance and the demolition of unused properties
  • maintain records and writing reports.

You may also do the following:

  • recruit, train, supervise and monitor staff workloads
  • generate revenue and implement budgets
  • identify housing needs
  • develop new housing schemes by reusing existing stock or managing new builds
  • evaluate the efficiency of housing schemes
  • build relationships with the community
  • interpret and implement housing legislation
  • recommend and develop local authority policies
  • monitor and update contractors' lists
  • investigate and respond to client complaints.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for housing assistants typically range from £21,000 to £24,000.
  • Housing officers usually earn in the region of £24,000 to £28,000, depending on the type of organisation, qualifications and experience.
  • Housing manager salaries range from £30,000 to £45,000, rising to £60,000 or more for senior manager, head of housing or director level posts.

Working hours

In general you'll work Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. It may be necessary to attend evening meetings with tenants or residents, and if you work in a supported housing project, shift work to cover a 24-hour rota is standard. Many employers offer flexible hours, job-sharing and career breaks.

What to expect

  • You'll usually be based in a central office or local neighbourhood housing office, from which you'll carry out visits to meet with tenants or residents.
  • The work will be carried out within a strict but changing regulatory framework.
  • For many posts, particularly those in social housing, employers positively welcome and encourage applications from underrepresented groups in order to better serve their clients.
  • The job may be stressful at times, particularly when dealing with sensitive or frustrating tenant issues.
  • Travel within a working day is common, but absence from home overnight and work or travel abroad are uncommon. There are opportunities overseas to work in property management though these are most likely to arise in the commercial sector.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree in the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • business or management studies
  • economics
  • facilities management
  • housing
  • land, estate or property management
  • law
  • planning
  • politics, government, or public and social administration
  • sociology or social policy
  • urban studies.

Relevant HND subjects include property and social, economic or business studies. In particular, the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • business management
  • estate management
  • housing
  • public administration
  • urban studies.

It's also possible to enter a career in this field with a relevant HND in one of the same subjects.

Some housing organisations offer graduate trainee schemes. These schemes generally provide the opportunity to gain experience in a range of departments and sometimes offer a professional qualification. It may also be possible to secure a graduate internship on a specific project. Contact housing organisations direct for details of opportunities.

The Centre for Partnership runs The GEM Programme, a graduate employment mentoring programme, which provides training and a housing profession qualification.

Entry without a degree or HND is possible. Personal qualities and experience tend to be more important than academic qualifications, although larger housing associations are more likely than other housing employers to recruit graduates.

Relevant postgraduate courses may facilitate entry, but you can also take courses while working. Graduates with a non-housing degree may want to do the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Level 4 Certificate for the Housing Profession. It's possible to study for an MSc in Housing Studies, or other postgraduate diplomas or Masters qualifications recognised by the CIH. Courses are run through CIH-accredited centres and via distance learning.

Skills

You will need to show evidence of the following:

  • strong teamwork, interpersonal and organisational skills
  • sensitivity and empathy
  • an interest in working with diverse social groups
  • excellent communication skills (verbal and written)
  • a customer-first approach to work
  • negotiation and influencing skills
  • leadership skills
  • the ability to adapt to different situations
  • self-motivation and tenacity
  • problem-solving skills
  • common sense and the ability to use initiative when making decisions
  • the ability to work under pressure and to meet deadlines
  • numeracy skills - for calculating rent arrears and service charges
  • knowledge of housing management legislation, basic building construction, relevant government policy, and current housing issues
  • IT skills
  • a full driving licence and access to a car is often necessary.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience in housing or a related customer service field is essential for some posts. Gaining experience in tenants' associations, housing association committees or in similar community roles is also useful, as is vacation or voluntary work with local authority housing departments or housing associations.

You could also try temping as a housing assistant, or working in a customer service role to prepare for working in the housing sector.

Employers

The Chartered Institute of Housing reports that more than 150,000 people are employed in housing sector.

Local authorities have traditionally been the main employers of housing professionals. In recent years, however, the transfer of social/council housing to large-scale voluntary transfer (LSVT) organisations has made housing associations the key employer.

Other typical employers include:

  • charitable bodies
  • registered social landlords
  • housing trusts - specialist organisations set up to develop specialist housing projects, sometimes with a limited time span
  • universities
  • cooperatives
  • voluntary organisations
  • public service departments, e.g. within social services or health authorities
  • private sector and commercial bodies.

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist recruitment agencies advertise vacancies in the housing sector, for example:

Professional development

If you secure a place on a graduate trainee scheme, you'll usually gain experience in a range of housing departments and may be given support to undertake a professional qualification, accredited by CIH.

Most employers run in-house training or hire training agencies to run courses on relevant topics, such as health and safety, dealing with difficult tenants, neighbourhood nuisance and regulatory updates.

Try approaching your employer for support in studying for a professional qualification. If you wish to become a fully chartered member of CIH, you can study for the MSc Housing Studies or other postgraduate diplomas or Masters qualifications recognised by CIH.

The majority of these courses include APEX, which is the CIH practice requirement for membership. If your chosen course doesn't include APEX, you'll need to complete it separately through CIH.

Chartered members of CIH are able to use the letters CIHCM after their name, and are required to undertake at least 20 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) a year. CIH membership grades are Member, Certified Practitioner and Fellow - see the CIH website for details about the level of training required for each of these categories.

Career prospects

It's likely you'll start your career as a tenancy support officer, housing assistant, customer service adviser or housing administrator. From any of these positions, there are various opportunities for progression and promotion to senior management, with experience and training.

Graduate trainee posts are offered in local authorities and some larger housing associations.

You may progress by specialising in a certain area, such as homelessness assessment, anti-social behaviour, special needs housing, tenant support and liaison, allocations, rent accounts or urban renewal and regeneration. Or, you could move up the management structure to become a housing manager, with line management responsibility for a team of housing officers. In some organisations there will be an intermediary step of senior housing officer or team leader.

More senior positions in housing are likely to focus on finance, strategy, research and development and policymaking. With substantial management experience, promotion to regional manager, head of service, housing director or chief executive is possible.