05 Mar 2021

There are so many opportunities in housing – so grab them with both hands!

I’m proud to say I’m a Chartered member of CIH – and love working in housing! 

I didn’t think ‘I am going to have a career in housing’ when I was at school – but once I had experienced it and understood the difference housing makes to peoples’ lives, I was hooked. It is so varied too. 

I started off working for a local authority – developing and monitoring the housing capital programme. Grabbing the opportunity to write the council’s housing strategies, including taking the strategy for older people’s housing through scrutiny committee, provided new experiences and learning, including building up my political awareness – not always easy, but it is really beneficial to understand the political environment. I also designed and managed the new affordable homes programme – working with housing associations to provide fantastic new homes, including those for older people and people with mental health issues/learning needs. When I saw the finished homes and talked to the residents who had moved in it gave me such a sense of purpose – I had made a difference! 

Wanting to stretch myself, I then worked for a housing market renewal pathfinder – and absolutely loved it.  As head of research and strategy, I undertook research and consultation to inform what we needed to do in different places to revive the area. Preparing for the regular Audit Commission reviews and ensuring I was totally on the ball with evidence that supported our proposed interventions to government (especially when speaking with the housing minister) was scarybut exciting – and so worth it when you could see new homes being built or tired existing ones having a facelift. 

I have now been at Homes England for ten years and have had several roles in this time – which shows the diversity of experiences you can have as a housing professional, gaining different knowledge and expertise as you move through your career. This has included strategy and information, affordable homes, and now lead on developing strategic housing pipelines as part of our new directorate Markets, Partners, Places. No two days are the same and I can be helping overcome local delivery challenges, including capacity issues, engaging with combined authorities and local authorities to uncover opportunities and work with them and colleagues to develop investable propositions for public sector funding.    

I haven’t taken what some see as the traditional housing management route – but working in housing isn’t just about that. It requires people who want to make a difference, to work ethically and as openly as possible. It can involve and develop your expertise in communications, strategy development, market intelligence, partnership building and relationship management. 

My tips

  • You don’t need to plan a career path but be aware of and grab any opportunities, no matter how scary, and do your best. 
  • Ask colleagues, partners and others working in areas of housing that you are interested in for their views/ideas – maybe even take on a secondment (I did more than once) – and always acknowledgpeoples’ support. 
  • Never stop learning – housing is not part of a static environment and you need to keep up to date, build skills and be professional. 
  • It is never too late – I have worked in housing for more than 20 years and had always put off demonstrating my experience and knowledge of housing through Chartered membershipBut in 2016 I successfully completed the experienced professional route. And I didn’t stop there – I applied and gained a place on the CIH North East board – working with fellow board members to design and host think tanks, sessions at the annual conference and feeding into the CIH professionalism champions group.    
Written by Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson, is senior partnership and business development manager in Markets, Partners, Places (Cities and Major Conurbations) at Homes England.