New to housing?

Find out about:

  • Different types of housing what social landlords do
  • Career opportunities
  • Key issues facing the housing sector and what the current priorities are

What is housing?

This information will introduce affordable housing, the organisations that provide it, and the career opportunities available working for them.

There are three main types of housing that make up our housing system:

  • Homeownership (also known as owner-occupation): These are owned and lived in by individual households and are the most significant part of the housing market. Although levels of homeownership have been dropping for over a decade, in 2019 there were still 18.8 million owner-occupied homes in the UK, 64 per cent of the total.
  • The private rented sector: properties rented out at ‘market prices’ by individuals or organisations. This part of the market is growing rapidly, and in 2019, there were 5.4 million privately rented homes, 19 per cent of the total
  • The affordable housing sector
What is affordable housing?

Affordable housing is an over-arching term for several different types of housing provided to eligible households whose needs would often not otherwise be met by the market. The most common forms of affordable housing are:

  • Social rented housing: this remains the most common form of affordable housing. The specific means by which rent varies from one part of the UK. For example, in England, rents depend on a formula that considers the Government limits the property's location and characteristics and annual rent increases. By contrast, in Scotland, landlords have more flexibility to set their rents, although there is a suggested benchmark for newly built homes and a regulatory requirement that they consult with tenants and take affordability into account when considering a rent increase. However, social rented properties are the cheapest form of housing available to tenants across the UK.
  • Affordable rented housing was introduced by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government of 2010-15 and applied only in England. It is similar to social rented accommodation, but rents are up to 80 per cent of those charged in the private rented sector. It's generally more expensive than social rented housing, with the increased income from higher rents invested in building more affordable homes.
  • Mid-market rented housing is one of the officially recognised affordable housing tenures that the Scottish Government will allocate funding for, and like affordable rented housing, rents are higher than social rents but lower than in the private rented sector.
  • Low-cost homeownership consists of several different products, all intended to make buying a home a viable option for those who would not otherwise be able to afford it. It includes shared ownership, where a buyer purchases a percentage of a property and pays rent on the remaining percentage, and (in England) starter homes, which are sold outright at a 20 per cent discount.

Affordable housing is a mix of several different types of 'products' aimed at different groups of people. Social rented housing is particularly vital for those on the lowest incomes - for many, it is the only form of housing that is affordable. However, the high cost of housing affects the very poorest in society, and many landlords provide different types of affordable housing to meet different needs.

Who provides affordable housing?

Affordable housing is provided by several different types of landlords, most commonly:

  • Local authorities (also known as councils) – all local authorities provide a range of services to households in their area, including refuse collection and highway maintenance. Their housing-related services include planning for developing new housing of all types and 'enabling' the development of more affordable housing specifically. In addition to this, some local authorities also continue to own and manage their own social/affordable rented housing.
  • Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) - this type of organisation is a management agent that works on the local authority's behalf. The authority owns the properties, but the ALMO is responsible for managing and maintaining them. ALMOs are only present in England. As of 2019, 31 ALMOs were operating across England.
  • Housing associations (also known as 'private registered providers' or 'registered social landlords in Scotland) – housing associations are private organisations that own and manage affordable housing. Most are not-for-profit organisations, and many are registered charities. Housing associations have become the biggest providers of affordable housing in the UK. They own and manage 10% of the country's housing in total. The housing association sector is exceptionally diverse, and around 1,700 housing associations are operating in England alone. Many of these are small organisations that own a handful of properties each, but some are large businesses responsible for tens of thousands of properties, sometimes spread across the country.

These different types of organisations are often collectively referred to as 'social landlords'.

What do social landlords do?

All of these types of landlords have in common: they all perform several ‘core’ housing management functions. These include:

  • allocating and letting properties to new tenants
  • collecting rent and service charges and dealing with arrears
  • managing estates and individual tenancies
  • carrying out repairs and essential maintenance of properties
  • tackling anti-social behaviour
  • involving tenants in designing, improving and scrutinising their services.

Also, many organisations go far beyond these essential functions and provide other services to improve the communities they operate in and the lives of their residents. These may include, for example:

  • providing care and support services to a particular client group, such as people with a physical disability or learning difficulty
  • providing money and debt advice
  • helping people to work and training
  • running services or maintaining amenities that benefit the local community, and that may not
  • necessarily be directly related to housing
Working for a social landlord

The range of services that social landlords provide is very varied; there is a wide range of different roles available for someone wishing to pursue a career in housing.

How to find fulfiling work

Check out the video below from The School of Life that helps you understand the key to finding fulfiling work.

To sum up:

  1. Being confused about a career choice is normal
  2. Know yourself
  3. Think a lot
  4. Try something
  5. Reflect on what makes people unhappy
  6. Be confident.

Careers in housing
Find out what job roles are available to you in the sector, and how you can build your skills to become a housing professional.
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Key issues
Find out about issues facing the housing sector and what the current priorities are.
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