Accessability Links

Housing Associations and the Legal Market

Posted by
07 Apr 2014

Housing associations are not-for-profit organisations that provide affordable housing for those individuals who are in need of a home. Any trading surplus generated by such organisations is funnelled back in to help maintain existing housing and to finance the building/acquisition of new homes. Many will be surprised to learn that the social housing sector in the UK today represents the nation's major provider of new housing for rent.

Housing associations provide a welcome alternative for those who cannot afford to buy a home outright by offering shared ownership schemes, which is particularly relevant in the current climate which is witnessing an increase in house prices nationwide.

The social housing sector does much more than simply provides homes to rent or buy; on a broader social level, housing associations campaign for better housing for those in need nationwide, ensuring housing is not merely provided but that it is of a particular standard and safe to occupy.

These associations represent an invaluable service to society as a whole. Much of the supported accommodation in the UK is also provided by them, many running specialist homes for those with mental health or learning difficulties.

They offer support and care, and endeavour to eradicate areas such as inequality and homelessness.

Given this considerable social responsibility, it is perhaps surprising that for a long time there has been a lack of in-house legal teams within this sector. With the exception of a few, housing associations have historically outsourced an enormous amount of their legal work - but we are currently witnessing a change in this trend. Many organisations are taking steps towards developing in-house legal teams to help address regulatory issues, handle property matters and help the sector to progress.

The past 18 months has seen several of our clients in this sector expanding their teams and bringing legal work back in-house.

Consequently, we have noticed a knock on in terms of legal recruitment. This is a new 'boom' area in terms of legal vacancies, both in terms of permanent and temporary recruitment. This shift in trend is relevant for many of our candidates as it results in a new arena in which a number of legal skill sets can be utilised. Housing associations are subject to the same regulations as local and central government - the Human Rights Act, the Equalities Act, EU Procurement regulations.

Ergo, candidates with varied backgrounds are able to use this as a new platform to expand their CVs. For our clients, it is an exciting time; a period of developing and shaping a new legal landscape. It is a thrilling opportunity to be able to build a new legal services delivery team from the ground up.

There are a number of organisations which offer support and 'a voice' to the housing sector. The industry body is the National Housing Federation and it works hard to ensure the social housing sector is recognised and progresses nationally as required. The NHF holds several events each year, from their national annual conference to specific, tailored events which focus on topics such as 'Company Secretaries Conference' and 'HR in Housing'.

However, there appears to be a gap as there is no single entity dedicated to the in-house legal departments within the social housing sector.

Is this because such departments are relatively new in their implementation, or is it simply an oversight?

We are currently working in conjunction with chambers to provide a free event aimed at those individuals working in the in-house teams at housing associations. It is extremely important to us as a company to provide the necessary support and networking opportunities to our clients and candidates. We take our role seriously within our chosen sectors and it is our aim to provide a spring board for those working in the social housing sector to be able to voice ideas, concerns and discuss obstacles facing this legal arena.

For more information on our events or the current legal market, please contact me on kate.jasper@sellickpartnership.co.uk or ring 0161 8341642.

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