The Chartered Institute of Housing

The Chartered Institute of Housing has its roots in the work of Octavia Hill, who sought to address the problems of poor housing. It has changed names several times until it became the Institute we know in 1974. 

The Chartered Institute of Housing has over 21,000 members, mainly in the UK but also in Hong Kong. It is recognised as a standard of excellence in the professional housing world; the training it provides covers both social and private sectors, so a well-rounded professional is the result.

I make these points because 48 weeks out of 52 I receive a copy of the professional magazine, Inside Housing. I have, in the past, written several letters in support of the private sector and issues I have felt needed a private sector perspective.

To be fair, they have published a number them; but these are scant representation for the private sector which is a major provider of accommodation for the homeless, those that need some flexibility in where they live, those that require mobility as they seek work.

The English House Condition survey recently found that whilst home-ownership is still the preferred option, with 63 per cent of the population being home-owners one fifth – that is 20 per cent of the population – live in private rented accommodation, beating social renting into last place with only 17 per cent being resident in council or housing association properties. 

Despite these interesting statistics, I have scoured the pages of Inside Housing over the past few months to find any references to the private sector at all. When I first qualified over 20 years ago and became a member of the Institute, all of my fellow students (including me) imagined our working lives would be in the social sector.

It may have been how we started, but we found that within a very short time, the lines became blurred; social landlords could not meet the demand; right to buy decimated the stocks they had. If homeless families and singles were to be housed, then the formerly despised private sector had to come to the fore.

It would be naive to expect that all landlords accepted this new status with generosity and eagerness to help the less fortunate. It took years of sensitive work with private landlords, accreditation schemes, bond schemes which provided non-cash deposits, lease schemes and an ethos of partnership working to bring us to where we are today – where tenants have a real choice in housing, and housing professionals can see their skills used in working with private sector landlords.

Why is this relevant? It is relevant because, as is my norm, I went through my most recent issue of Inside Housing; there were 19 pages devoted to stories on social housing; 4 or 5 to highly-paid jobs in the social sector; how many pages on the private sector?

I am afraid that this week, as has been the case for several months, there was no acknowledgement that a major provider of housing, that funds itself, provides often better accommodation than the social sector can, even exists.

Many of the housing professionals reading this magazine will find that even in the social sector, they will need to forge working relationships with private sector landlords.

I have written another letter to the magazine; doubtless it will receive the same negative response as my previous missives; however, what matters is that we keep banging the drum; the private sector is not an ethereal entity, invisible and disregarded until it is needed.  It is a solid, strong housing provider and a fifth of the population relies on it; just don’t expect to hear much about it until a ‘Rogue’ landlord is unearthed. 

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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