Joining the Board of a Housing Association

Becoming a non-executive director of a housing association is “like getting an MBA for free”…

We asked Mark Sweeny what he’d say to someone considering joining the board of a housing association. His 1 minute answer gets to the heart of it: you’d get a huge amount of personal development (akin to a “free MBA”!) and a chance to bring your skills and experience to help the organisation to grow and support their tenants even better.

10 things to know about housing associations

  • They help make accommodation available and affordable for everyone. They are socially motivated. 
  • They own houses! Literally, they own residential property and rent that property out to tenants. They are asset rich. 
  • They are not-for-profit social landlords. This means they reinvest any profit that they make into providing a better service for their tenants, and building more properties so they can serve more people. They reinvest their profits. 
  • Housing associations build a quarter of England’s new homes, including almost all new social and affordable homes. They are a vital part of the UK’s home building. 
  • Many Housing Associations also do other things for their tenants and communities – e.g. homeless hostels, domestic violence refuges, community centres, employment support, training and apprenticeships. They provide a wide variety of services. 
  • There are housing associations all over the UK. In England alone there are 1,500 , providing around 2 million homes for over 5 million residents. There are a lot of them!
  • As you can imagine, they range in size. The biggest is Clarion Housing Group – they have 125,000 properties and more than 350,000 residents, their social housing properties have an asset value of £7.5bn. They vary in size. 
  • The National Housing Federation represents Housing Associations in the UK, with over 800 members. Housing Associations don’t generally compete with one another. They are collaborative.
  • The board must ensure tenants are treated fairly and are safe in their homes, that income is spent well, and that management is held to account. They need good governance. 
  • They are regulated and are required to follow a code of governance (generally the NHF Code of Governance or the UK Corporate Governance Code) which requires them to have a board and to have independent directors. You could apply to join one as a Non-Executive Director! 

The basics – time commitment, roles, remuneration 

We’ve used the data from the 97 roles we have published on Dynamic Boards, from when we launched in May 2020 to now, December 2020. 

  • What’s the time commitment? For a non-executive director we’ve seen half a day per  month to 3 days a month. For a chair role, between 1-4 days a month. Some organisations have evening board meetings, some have whole day board meetings. 
  • What roles are there? The most common roles are: Non-Executive Director/ Board Member, Chair, Chair of Audit & Risk Committee, Chair of Remuneration, Chair of Nominations, Chair of Treasury Committee.  
  • How much do they pay? It varies! For a Non-Executive Director we’ve seen £2k – £20k per year.  For a Chair role we’ve seen £5k – £40k. Dynamic Boards only showcase paid board roles, but there are also housing associations that don’t pay their board members (particularly the smaller ones). 

Who they are looking for?

Again, we’ve used data from the 97 roles we’ve showcased May-Dec 2020.

  • People who care. Anyone considering applying to join the board of a housing association should have a passion for housing associations’ purpose: to make accommodation available and affordable for everyone.
  • Skills/ experience areas often looked for:
    • Technology/ digital
    • Commercial acumen
    • Asset management
    • Property development, real estate
    • Finance, treasury
    • People & talent
    • Regulated experience (from any sector)
    • Risk management
    • Customer advocacy/ championing customers
  • Perspectives often sought after:
    • People from black, asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Many housing associations have reflected on the ethnic mix of their tenants and the ethnic mix on their board and want their boards to be more representative. Other perspectives that are mentioned, but less frequently:
    • Women
    • People with disabilities
    • Younger NEDs
    • LGBT+
    • First time NEDs
    • Lived experience (of living in a housing association property)
    • Socio-economic backgrounds 

Where to view non-executive director vacancies

Since we launched Dynamic Boards in May we’ve showcased 97 opportunities to join the board of a housing association as a non-executive director (that’s out of a total 569 vacancies for paid board roles listed on the site between May and December 2020). There are 9 live opportunities right now so if you’re interested you can register for free to view the roles on Dynamic Boards here.

Want to learn more? 

Watch our video interviews with Jenny Brown, Board Member and Chair of Audit and Risk Committee, Longhurst Group and with Mark Sweeny, Non-Executive Director, Sapphire Independent Housing. If you know someone we should interview please get in touch at

Are you recruiting for your housing association board?

We can help advertise Non-Executive Director vacancy, click here to find out more. Dynamic Boards works across all sectors, and we work collaboratively with search firms. So please get in touch and see how we can help you:

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