The Homelessness Reduction Act, which comes into effect in April is driving significant changes in the social housing recruitment market. Most notably, housing options officers are in high demand as local authorities and arm’s-length management organisations (ALMOs) continue to prepare for the increased workload the Act will bring.
Whilst some organisations are seeking to merge housing options with their wider housing department in order to help relieve the strain, most are recruiting for new employees.
This growing demand for candidates shows little sign of abating over the coming months, as this legislation will impact a number of local authority departments. For example, general housing management staff will be impacted as higher volumes of people come under their borough’s jurisdiction. Employees who deal with private landlords for temporary accommodation are also likely to feel extra strain as they struggle to support all eligible applicants, rather than just those classified as ‘priority’ need.
However, there is a serious shortage of candidates required to fill the required roles, especially as many organisations are recruiting for housing options officers with in-depth and comprehensive understanding of Section 184 in order to make accurate and increasingly difficult homelessness decisions.
As a result of this limited supply of candidates, there has been some wage inflation for housing options officer roles in recent months as organisations compete to attract the best and most experienced talent available.
Further to offering a competitive salary, those organisations still looking to recruit housing options officers and other roles in anticipation of the latest legislative changes should look to increase their speed to hire. Due to the high competition for skills, those with agile recruitment processes will be best placed to quickly secure top talent.
To increase their chances of attracting the best, organisations should also look to offer a wider variety of benefits and opportunities. We have found that better career progression is regularly citied by housing options candidates when looking for new roles. Those organisations who are able to demonstrate regular performance reviews and a transparent progression pathway are therefore more likely to be seen as an attractive employer.
Similarly, a significant proportion housing options officers have long commutes, so a progressive workplace with agile working options – such as flexible hours – is also likely to gain greater interest from talented candidates.
Finally, organisations with acute talent shortages should also consider hiring candidates with less experience but who have the necessary soft skills and aptitude required for this challenging role, and look to upskill them through on-the-job training. Whilst this should not be considered a quick solution, as any training required should be thorough and comprehensive, a highly capable housing assistant with the potential to develop their skillset may be easier to recruit than an experienced housing options officer in the current market.
For more information or to discuss your recruitment needs, please contact your local consultant.
Richard leads specialist recruiting consultants across the sector. He joined Hays in 1991 and quickly worked his way up through the ranks and was appointed Director in 2001.
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