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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

The answer is invaluable. Now what is the question?


Director of Northern Ireland Jim Dennison reminds us about the importance of a place to call home.

Yesterday I made my monthly pilgrimage to CIH HQ in Coventry to meet with colleagues from other departments and directorates. The taxi arrived to take me to the airport as ordered. When I got into the taxi the driver and I struck up a conversation. He asked me if I had a long day planned and when I hoped to get home. He told me that he was looking forward to getting home at 9am because he had left his house the previous evening at 9pm to start his shift. Nothing unusual in that conversation.

I got to the airport and boarded the plane ready for the off. When seated, I got talking to the woman on my left. She told me how she had a week full of meetings in England scheduled and that she was already looking forward to getting home on Friday. She told me how she and her husband had recently decorated their house and the first thing she’d have to do when she got back is to clean it following the aftermath of her daughter’s 7th birthday party the previous day. Again, nothing unusual with that. A little while later it struck me the first two people I’d met that day – two complete strangers – had mentioned their ‘house’ and their ‘home’. Although it was casual conversation, it wasn’t small talk. Both of these people were talking about something which meant a lot to them.

The mathematician in me decided to conduct a very unscientific experiment – I was interested to see how many times people would refer to their ‘house’ or ‘home’ in a non-business related context during the course of that day.

As of 10.30pm last night, that figure was 17. Different people that day had mentioned their house or home seventeen times. ‘I can’t wait to get home and sit out in the garden to enjoy what’s left of the sun’; ‘my niece is in London house-hunting today – she goes to Uni in October’; ‘my son is due home from Australia next month and I can’t wait to see him!; ‘I’d love to move house but I simply can’t afford it’; ‘you couldn’t swing a cat in my flat but I love it!’. I could go on.

Through the day people talked about their home – whether it be a house, a flat, an apartment, a room in a shared house. Unknowingly, they described it as the place from where they start and end the day. The place where they rest. The place they share. The place they welcome people to. The place they aspire to develop. The place they love.

Sometimes we take our houses and homes for granted. All too often we forget about those who have no home or worry about losing what they do have. Imagine what would happen to the lives of all the people I innocently spoke to yesterday if the one thing they spoke of - where they live - was no longer there.

Across the UK, we have a tendency to think of the ‘value’ of a house as being the monetary value. Whilst I’m not saying that is wrong or not important, sometimes people overlook the real value. For all of the reasons I’ve outlined above, I think the answer to the question is ‘invaluable’.

The question is ‘how much is your house worth?’ We, as housing professionals, should never underestimate the importance of the work we do to provide people with a place to call home. Never lose sight of that.

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