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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Exciting times demand excellence


Gavin Smart, CIH’s director of policy and practice, outlines his plans for helping the organisation make a positive difference to the housing sector.

I couldn’t have picked a more exciting time to join CIH. Housing and the wider world is going through a period of unprecedented change much of it stemming from the financial crisis and the massive social, economic and political challenges it created. As the UK works its way through the longest economic slowdown since the Great Depression we have had to get accustomed to an entirely new landscape of weak economic growth, coalition government, austerity and rapid policy change. Housing has not had an easy ride, whether from the huge budget cuts in the CSR or from the pace and scale of change ushered in by the many major changes in the policy agenda. But my job, and that of the rest of the policy and practice team, is to do our very best to support the housing profession as it engages with these challenges. Whether that’s through negotiating the detail of major new policies to make sure they will actually work when implemented or producing practice advice and guidance that empowers housing professionals to be as brilliant as we all know they can be.

CIH is changing too, to make sure we are as well placed to respond to this new world as the sector is and as our new governance arrangements bed down and we explore new ways of working I’m sure you will see us make a positive difference to the work of the profession and the housing sector and just as importantly to the lives of people across the UK.

Housing touches everyone in one way or another and the scale of the challenge facing our broken housing system demands that we do everything we can to contribute to building a better system that meets the country’s needs and guarantees everyone the opportunity to have somewhere to live that is decent, safe and affordable. I want to ensure that CIH does everything it can to support housing professionals in achieving this vision. We are committed to developing sector-led solutions that build upon the expertise of CIH members and of the wider housing sector. We have identified 2012 as our “Year of Practice” and you can expect to see evidence of us harvesting the knowledge and expertise of the sector in the reports and outputs we produce across the year.

I’ve been interested in policy and politics for as long as I can remember. By the time I started my career as a researcher at Bristol University I had already begun focusing on housing and wider public policy as areas that I really cared about. They are about people’s life chances and having the opportunity to improve the quality of someone’s life seemed so much more appealing than adding to the bottom line for a large corporation.

Pretty soon my background growing up in a home where everyone had an opinion about everything began to show and I realised I had strong views about how things should and shouldn’t be done and I wanted the opportunity to express them. I worked in both the civil service and at the National Housing Federation, unsurprisingly the latter proving a better fit than the former. Joining CIH is a natural progression. It gives me an even greater opportunity to argue the case for housing and the housing profession, to show how housing can change people’s lives for the better and to see the role the sector plays properly recognised and understood.

There are some enormous challenges facing the sector in a difficult operating environment, but I know that it can rise to and overcome these challenges. My job at CIH is to ensure we do everything we can to make that happen. If you want to discuss the issues raised here or anything else please get in touch. You can email me at or phone 024 7685 1785.


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