Callum Chomczuk: What does Housing to 2040 say about our profession?

CIH Scotland national director Callum Chomczuk reflects on what is missing from Housing to 2040.

Callum Chomczuk: What does Housing to 2040 say about our profession?

Callum Chomczuk

Last month saw the publication of Housing to 2040, a 20-year strategy full of welcome ambition about the future of our sector and the role of housing in improving society at large.

While the strategy rightly focuses on issues such as supply, affordability, building standards, homelessness and climate change, to name a few, there is one aspect where it could have gone further - the role and contribution of housing professionals.

Building homes and communities is about much more than bricks and mortar, it is about the people - both tenants and housing staff. So in the absence of a steer from the Government in this strategy, what can we as housing professionals do to make sure how housing leadership, succession planning, skills development and education is a larger part of our sector wide conversation and prioritisation?

The first thing to say is that we are not starting from scratch.

Across the sector we are seeing significant progress made in enhancing housing professionalism and practice.

Be it the graduate recruitment programme pioneered by associations like Wheatley Group and Kingdom where recent graduates are recruited and given the chance to work across different departments while studying towards a housing qualification or the Training Academy initiated by Fife Council that supports career progression and succession planning through coaching, mentoring, training, support and qualifications.

Landlords across Scotland have in place mechanisms to improve the performance of the staff and outcomes for their tenants.

Indeed at CIH we are trying to play our part with the launch of our professional standards. We see these characteristics and the launch of the self-assessment tool later this year as the way to support housing professionals to take control of their own career and identify the training and guidance they need for their professional development. Embedding the values of leadership, ethical decision making and integrity in housing practice.

This is all helpful. But if we want housing to be a career of choice and if we want to deliver the ambition set out in Housing to 2040 then we need to consider more systemic approach to professional standards and performance.

What can we learn from letting agencies where there is a requirement that key members of staff undertake a mandatory housing qualification such as the LETWELL qualification delivered by CIH and Landlord Accreditation Scotland? Is there a case for learning about how this qualification has improved professionalism and practice among letting agencies?

We know that in England the Government at Westminster has recently committed to review of professional training and development to consider the appropriate qualifications and standards for social housing staff in different roles, including senior staff. Do we need the same in Scotland or is our professional development better served by voluntary, sector-led model?

Now, while there is nothing explicit about professional development in Housing to 2040, we at CIH see the announced audit of housing and homelessness legislation, the commitment to a whole rented sector strategy and the renewal of the Social Housing Charter as opportunities to develop structural focus on housing leadership and professional development. For CIH this is our ambition. Housing professionalism and education recognised as a core component of development by our Government and the regulator. Not for its own sake but because it demonstrably improves housing outcomes for tenant and customers.

So we as housing professionals need to respond positively to the opportunities presented in Housing to 2040. We need to make the case for housing to be recognised as the profession it is and we need to work collaboratively with Government to ensure the structures are in place so we skill up the next generation of leaders.

We all share the ambition set out in Housing to 2040 – let’s make sure we do everything we can to give Scotland’s housing workforce the skills, training and qualification they need to deliver on this vision.

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