Affordable housing is an issue of global importance

After a trip to North America in October, Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) President Geraldine Howley reflects on visiting CIH members and colleagues in Canada and beginning to fully understand the impact of the housing crisis in other countries.

As CIH President, it was my privilege to meet members and colleagues from Canada during my working visit to North America in October. My visit confirmed that in our rapidly changing times we all occupy common ground – affordable housing is an issue of global importance. I believe we can learn so much from sharing our collective experiences of addressing the tough issues our customers and communities face with our colleagues in different countries.

My itinerary gave me a great insight into social housing in Ontario and the work of CIH Canada. It was interesting to work with the CIH Canada board at its head office, which is conveniently co-located with the Housing Services Corporation (HSC). HSC is a non-profit organisation which works with Ontario’s 1400+ social housing providers to make sure residents have access to safe and affordable housing that improves their quality of life.

It was also great to spend time with HSC chief executive Howie Wong and chief administrative officer Judy Lightbound, as well as Lisa Kotsopoulos (CIH Canada manager) and Paul Tennant (CIH Canada chair and group chief executive of Orbit Group in the UK). The discussions we had meant I was able to gain a better understanding of the challenges currently faced by the Canadian sector.

Just like housing professionals in the UK, our Canadian colleagues are looking to the future – it was really exciting to discuss the plans CIH Canada has for encouraging and developing professional development and training. The growth of the CIH network has been a really positive resource and I was impressed by plans to expand further. The branch has really grown in the three years since it was established and I have great hopes for its future.

CIH aims to encourage the best and brightest people to join the housing sector – as a result, it’s looking at its future leadership development and talent management. As my Presidential theme is young people, I was delighted to share research into Generation Y and talent management in the housing sector, undertaken by graduates of the GEM programme. I’m encouraged by CIH Canada’s interest in the GEM programme and its appetite for getting graduates in Canada’s housing sector involved. I can’t wait to see how we engage with housing’s future leaders in different parts of the world.

I also spent some time at Peel Living – the third largest social housing provider in Ontario – and with Canada’s Founders, a prestigious group that’s compromised of recognised sector leaders. These experiences again made me realise that they are more similarities than differences between the housing systems in the UK and Canada.

On my final day in Toronto, Paul Tennant and I proudly presented recent graduates of CIH Canada’s online certified and chartered programmes with their CIH Canada pins. We spoke about the issues facing our respective sectors and it became more clear than ever that Canada too is struggling as a result of investment in social housing being phased out – the housing crisis is not just a UK issue. So we must continue to build links and work together. I believe that in every country in which CIH operates, the overriding aspiration is clear: we want everyone to have an affordable home in a thriving and safe community.