You will 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 provide an introduction into affordable housing, the organisations that provide it and the career opportunities that are available working for them.

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

  • homeownership (also known as owner-occupation): these are properties which are owned and lived in by individual households. This is the largest part of the housing market. Although levels of homeownership have been dropping for over a decade, in 2015 there were still 17.8 million owner-occupied homes in the UK, 63 per cent of the total.
  • the private rented sector: these are properties which are rented out at ‘market prices’ by individuals or organisations. This part of the market is growing rapidly and in 2015 there were 5.5 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 which are 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 rents are set varies from one part of the UK to another. For example in England rents are set depending on a formula which takes into account the location and characteristics of the property and annual rent increases are limited by the government (at present rents are set to decrease by 1 per cent per year until 2019/2020, after that landlords will be allowed to increase them again but not by more than 1 per cent above inflation). By contrast in Scotland, landlords have more flexibility to set their rents, although there is a suggested benchmark for new build homes and a regulatory requirement that they consult with tenants and take affordability into account when considering a rent increase. However, across the UK, social rented properties are the cheapest form of housing available to tenants.
    • affordable rented housing: this was introduced by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government of 2010-15 and applies only in England. It is similar to social rented housing but rents are set at up to 80 per cent of those charged in the private rented sector. This means it is generally more expensive than social rented housing, with the increased income from higher rents being invested in building more affordable homes.
    • mid-market rented housing: this is one of the officially recognised affordable housing tenures that the Scottish Government will allocate funding for. Like affordable rented housing, rents are typically set higher than social rents but lower than in the private rented sector.
  • low-cost homeownership – this 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. This 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 therefore made up of several different types of ‘product’, which are 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 which is affordable. However, the high cost of housing doesn’t only affect 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, for example, refuse collection and highways maintenance. Their housing-related services include planning for the development of 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 which works on behalf of the local authority. The authority continues to own the properties but the ALMO is responsible for managing and maintaining them. ALMOs are only present in England. At the beginning of 2018, 33 ALMOs were operating across England.
  • Housing associations (also known as 'private registered providers' or ‘registered social landlords’ in Scotland) – housing associations are private organisations which 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. In total, they own and manage nearly 10% of the country’s housing. The housing association sector is extremely diverse. In total around 1,700 housing associations are operating in England alone. Many of these are very small organisations who own a handful of properties each but some are large businesses responsible for tens of thousands of properties, sometimes spread across the whole country.

These different types of organisation are often collectively referred to as ‘social landlords’.

What do social landlords do?

One thing that all of these types of landlord have in common is that 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 basic 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 into 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.

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.
Find out more
Key issues
Find out about issues facing the housing sector and what the current priorities are.
Find out more
Support and guidance
Access your other membership benefits, they are designed to support your career development.