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The Index 2015

Findings from Affinity Sutton’s annual survey of over 1,000 residents in Summer 2015

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Welcome to the Index 2015, setting out the findings from our fourth annual survey of Affinity Sutton residents across the country - and our first digital only edition in support of the Affinity Sutton 20/20 initiative for sustainability.

The last year has seen us facing fresh challenges and the new government has announced a range of policies that will affect our business and the lives of our residents.

We continue to work on key projects identified in previous surveys. Our Future Foundations Programme is bringing organisation-wide changes to help us deliver services more efficiently and offer improved self-service options for residents to interact with us when and how they want to.

Our increasingly digital-platform for communications continues driven by nearly 8 in 10 of our customers now having internet access (77% up from 73% last year). We will continue to provide opportunities to increase this figure and our Get Connected programme is supporting residents to access the internet and build their confidence online.

I am pleased to see Affinity Sutton resident behaviours challenging media portrayals of social renters not being engaged in wider social issues:

63% of our residents said they voted in the 2015 General Election, whilst similar to the national turnout of 66%, this is significantly higher than the 56% of social housing tenants nationally (Ipsos MORI poll Aug 2015).

However it is evident that, despite the efforts of our Community Investment and Asset Sustainability teams, many residents still struggle to heat their homes and as we head towards winter this will become an increasing priority for us.

Meeting these challenges will not be achieved overnight but I am confident that our staff and residents will respond and rise to these challenges in the months and years ahead.

Michelle Reynolds

Affinity Sutton Group Commercial Director

Key Findings

  • 77% of residents have access to the internet (up from 73% last year)

  • 26% of residents went without heating to save money at some point in the past two years

  • 80% agree with the extension of Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants

  • 59% agree there is a need for more homes in their area

  • 63% of residents say they voted in the 2015 General Election

  • 84% say their neighbourhood is a good place to live

Right to Buy

Government plans to extend the Right to Buy to tenants of Housing Associations were announced in the Summer Budget. Many organisations, including Affinity Sutton, have been modelling levels of likely take up to help us understand what the impact of this policy might be on residents and our business.

Because the economy, house prices and mortgage availability look so different now compared to the 1980's (no 100% mortgages anymore for example) it is problematic to make predictions based on what has happened in the past. One key issue for Housing Associations to understand is how many residents might want to take up the Right to Buy offer.


of residents had heard about the government's plans to extend the Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants.

Once told about the government plans, most residents (80%) agree that the Right to Buy should be extended to tenants of Housing Associations but there is variance between age groups with older residents less in favour of the policy. As might be expected, those aged 25-34 who are most likely to be in a position to take advantage of it tend to agree with the Right to Buy extension.

Percentage of residents who agree that the Right to Buy should be extended to Housing Association tenants by age band:
  • 86%
  • 91%
  • 88%
  • 84%
  • 70%
  • 72%
  • 62%

While most residents agree with the policy to extend the Right to Buy, a smaller proportion say that they are likely to make use of the discount. Of those who said they would not exercise the Right to Buy reasons for not doing so tended to be because of personal circumstances such as considering themselves too old (24%) or not being able to afford it (35%). 5% said they would not exercise the Right to Buy because they object to the policy.

Percentage of residents who say they are likely or unlikely to exercise the right to buy

Of the 15% of residents who say they are “Very Likely” to exercise the Right to Buy:

  • 40% are currently in receipt of Housing Benefit

  • 52% are in arrears on their rent account

  • 35% are not currently in work

Whilst this does not mean they could definitely not afford to buy, we are concerned that this policy may raise expectations and result in frustration for some tenants.

Building new homes

Affinity Sutton has a strong track record in developing new homes and in the current environment of severe housing shortage, we want to provide more affordable housing whilst maintaining our investment in our current stock and communities.

While it is a priority for us, we wanted to know how far residents agree with the need to build more homes to address the housing crisis.


of residents agree there is a need for more homes in their area

There has been a significant year on year increase in residents believing that there is a need for more homes in their area. Increased media attention on the housing crisis may well have played a part in this but residents may also have friends or family struggling to find housing nearby, or may have tried to move home themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, residents with more than one child at home were more likely to agree with the need for more homes in their area than other households (67% of those with 2 children; 69% with 3).

Percentage of residents by year who agree with the statement,
"There is a need for more homes in my area"
  • 33%
    Net: 59%
  • 26%
    Net 50%
  • 28%
    Net: 45%
  • Strongly agree

  • Agree

The housing crisis is placing greater pressure on some parts of the country than others, however there was little regional variance in resident responses to the need for more homes with only slightly more agreement in London and the East than in the North. We would have expected a higher level of agreement in the South and South West where households are increasingly priced out of local markets.

Percentage of residents who agree that there is a need for more homes in their area by Affinity Sutton stock region
  • 60%
  • 60%
  • 56%
  • 58%
    South & South West

Although over half of residents agree with the need for more homes, there is less agreement over where these should be built. Views on greenfield development are more polarised than for development in general.

Interestingly, in the East where the need for more homes was largely supported, nearly a quarter (23%) of residents strongly disagree with building on greenfield sites compared to 17% of all Affinity Sutton residents. Young residents are more supportive than other groups, among 18-24 year old residents 47% agree with building homes on greenfield sites

Percentage of residents who agree or disagree with the need to build on greenfield sites

Digital Inclusion

Affinity Sutton believes it has a pivotal role to play in bridging the digital divide for all of its residents, seeing digital inclusion as both a business and moral issue. Get Connected is Affinity Sutton’s campaign to help residents get online


of Affinity Sutton residents have access to the internet

Since we first asked residents about access to the internet in 2011 we have seen a significant rise in the number of residents online. Importantly, those with access to the internet are increasingly using it frequently with 77% of those online saying they use it daily.

Percentage of Residents with access to the internet

As in previous years, young people lead the way digitally with 96% having online access but we have seen increases across all age groups except those aged 75 and over. There has been a significant increase in access among 55-74 year olds. Daily access to the internet increases to 89% among 18-24 year olds.

Access to the internet by age and year:
  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 92%
  • 96%
  • 85%
  • 89%
  • 51%
  • 61%
  • 27%
  • 25%

Over the past three years we have seen significant annual increases in residents accessing the internet via smartphone which reflects the national trend – 66% of UK adults now have a smartphone (Ofcom, 6 August 2015). There has also been a significant increase in tablet use this year (+7%) and 80% of residents with access to the internet say they are confident using online services. These findings support Affinity Sutton's move towards mobile-enabled digital access to services in its customer strategy.

Do you have access to the internet?

  • 68%
    Yes, at home
  • 64%
  • 67%
  • 52%
    Yes - smartphone
  • 44%
  • 32%
  • 34%
    Yes - Tablet/iPad
  • 27%
  • Not asked
  • 2015

  • 2014

  • 2013


Residents in work have increased from 38% in 2014 to 44% this year. There is a link between being in paid work and personal outlook with 88% of those in work saying they feel in control of their life compared to 81% of those not working. Last year Affinity Sutton's Ready2Work Team helped 904 people into work, placed 105 apprentices, created 270 new work placements and produced 2,822 training outcomes.


of residents are in paid employment

The increase in residents in paid work is almost exclusively made up of full-time workers (up 5%) with the proportion in part-time jobs remaining static at 16%. While 44% in paid employment may not seem very high, it should be noted that a fifth of Affinity Sutton residents are retired from work and a further 17% are not working because of a disability.

Employment status of residents by year
2014 2015
Working - Part time 16% 16%
Working - Full time 22% 27%
Full-time education 1% 1%
Disabled, not working 17% 17%
Retired 17% 20%
Carer 5% 5%
Looking after the home 7% 6%
Unemployed 7% 6%
Not in paid work - other 4% 1%

So far the government's focus for welfare reform has been on working age benefits. This year's survey shows that quite a high proportion of Affinity Sutton's working age residents are carers or disabled and not in work; this provides a timely reminder of the importance of providing support to those unable to enter paid employment. Affinity Sutton has employed additional Welfare Benefits Advisors and Under-Occupation officers to prepare residents for the planned changes to the benefits system and offer guidance and support. Since April 2013 the Welfare Benefits Team has helped secure over £4.3 million additional benefits and discretionary payments for residents.

Employment status of working age residents

Employment status: Gender (all ages)

The majority of those in full time work are men, with women making up the majority of part-time workers. This is the same pattern as last year and while the proportion of women in both full time and part time work has increased by just 2%, the increase in full time work among male residents is quite striking – up 9% with a 3% fall in part time work.

Employment status of residents by gender
Male 2014 Male 2015 Female 2014 Female 2015
Working - Part time 12% 9% 18% 20%
Working - Full time 29% 38% 18% 20%
Full-time education 1% 1% 1% 1%
Disabled, not working 19% 20% 17% 16%
Retired 26% 21% 18% 19%
Carer 2% 2% 7% 7%
Looking after the home 1% 1% 10% 9%
Unemployed 9% 6% 7% 5%
Not in paid work - other 3% 1% 3% 2%


Recognising the importance of neighbourhood and community for personal wellbeing, we support residents to improve their estate or neighbourhood through local community projects. To help evaluate these projects Affinity Sutton uses the HACT 'Social Value Bank', a tool that enables those involved in community investment to calculate social impact.

Feeling in control of what happens in your life has a high HACT Social Value (equivalent to £12,470 p.a. per person) and encouragingly the majority of residents say they feel in control. Young residents aged 18-24 are most likely to feel in control as 95% said they do; by contrast just 66% of those who are disabled and not working say they feel in control.


of residents agree with the statement "I feel in control of what happens in my life"

Resident satisfaction with neighbourhood

  • 33%
    Net: 87%
  • 35%
    Net 87%
  • 24%
    Net: 83%
  • Very Satisfied

  • Quite Satisfied

Not having a problem with young people hanging around has a Social Value equivalent to £5,760 per person and when asked whether they felt there was a problem with this where they live, the majority of residents (63%) disagreed. This is very similar to the 62% who answered this way last year but we have seen a shift in perceptions of young people's positive influence on an area. Positive impressions of local young people in 2015 are heading back towards 2013 levels following a dip in 2014.

Percentage of residents who agreed that young people have a positive influence in their area, by year

77% of residents talk to their neighbours regularly and this has a Social Value equivalent to £3,484 per year per person. This has increased very slightly from 75% in 2014.

Demographically there is no statistically significant difference between male and female residents talking to their neighbours (77% male, 76% female) but young people score lowest for this and those in the North continue to score highest with 80% of them talking to each other regularly.

Percentage of residents who talk to their neighbours regularly by age band
  • 67%
  • 74%
  • 77%
  • 76%
  • 78%
  • 87%
  • 72%

Household Finances

It is no secret that lower quartile household budgets across the country are being stretched and the ongoing introduction of welfare reform is set to intensify the financial pressure on these low income households in particular.


of residents are worried about money issues

Percentage of residents worried about money issues

Last year 43% of Affinity Sutton residents said they were worried about money issues and this has increased to 47% this year with lower quartile earnings failing to keep pace with prices. Significantly, among those receiving benefits, worries about money have increased from 45% of residents to 51% - indicating that welfare changes may already be causing concern for residents.

Claiming no benefits
  • 39%
  • 38%
Claiming any benefits
  • 51%
  • 45%

Nearly a quarter of residents say they tend to run out of money before the end of the week/month. This is not statistically significantly different from last year but for those with children it increases to 30%.

Among those on Employment Support Allowance, over a third (34%) tend to run out of money before the end of the week/month and it is 37% among those receiving Job Seeker's Allowance.

The group of residents least likely to run out of money are retirees with only 9% running out before the end of the week/month; this contrast may highlight how welfare reforms targeted at working age households are really starting to bite for some groups.

Resident financial experience
I usually have money left at the end of the week/month 24%
I am able to afford some of the luxuries of life as well as the essentials 19%
I only have enough for the essentials 28%
I tend to run out of money before the end of the week/month 24%

In 2013, resident usage of weekly payments stores (such as Brighthouse) shot up from 3% to 13%. In response to this surge, Affinity Sutton's Financial Inclusion team have been working with Leeds Credit Union to help residents set up debit and savings accounts as well as to access affordable loans.

In 2014 the use of these high-cost credit stores had increased more modestly by 3% and this year has remained the same. It's unknown what the trajectory would have been without our intervention but it is clear that easy access to genuinely affordable credit is still needed.

Percentage of residents who used a catalogue or weekly payment store in the last year, by year:
  • 3%
  • 13%
  • 16%
  • 16%

Through these annual surveys we have been able to track trends in residents' use of quick cash loans and cash converters for a number of years. While the proportion of residents using these has remained relatively flat from 2012 to 2015 (5%; 6%; 6%; 7%), it is useful to understand the demographic make-up of users when targeting budgeting support and signposting affordable credit options.

This year 7% of all residents used a quick cash loan but young residents were twice as likely to use these. Those with children in the household were twice as likely to say they had used a quick cash loan as their childless counterparts.

Resident use of expensive credit
Without Children
With Children
Use quick cash loan 7% 5% 10% 14%
Used catalogue or weekly payment store 16% 14% 20% 21%

There is some correlation between weekly payment store usage and quick cash loans as those with children are more likely to use either of these (20%) than childless households (14%) and young residents aged 18-24 tend to use these too (21%). The key difference is in gender with 19% of female residents using a weekly payment store or catalogue compared to 12% of men.

There is some correlation between weekly payment store usage and quick cash loans as those with children are more likely to use either of these (20%) than childless households (14%) and young residents aged 18-24 tend to use these too (21%). The key difference is in gender with 19% of female residents using a weekly payment store or catalogue compared to 12% of men.

Only 45% of residents have home contents insurance and this figure has been static for the past three years. Again, age is the strongest indicator of whether a household has insurance although there is some variance by region as well. Just 31% of residents in London say they have contents insurance compared to 54% in the East and South and South West. How much of this is because of the 'postcode premium' making insurance expensive in London is unknown, but it is clear that affordable contents insurance could benefit a large number of residents who could otherwise lose everything in the event of a fire, flood or burglary. Targeting the communications around Affinity Sutton's low cost home contents insurance offer in London and to young residents will be a key action to take.

Percentage of residents with home contents insurance by age band
  • 19%
  • 31%
  • 34%
  • 39%
  • 53%
  • 71%
  • 71%

Political engagement

The national turnout at the 2015 General Election was 66% and according to Ipsos MORI, just 56% of social renters voted compared to 77% of people who own their home outright and 69% of owner-occupiers with a mortgage.

In our 2014 survey 71% of our residents said they planned to vote in the 2015 General Election. We asked them this year whether they had actually voted to understand the relationship between intention and action.


of residents voted in the 2015 General Election

Last year 71% of residents said they would vote and this year 63% say they actually voted. The 8% drop-off was not exhibited uniformly across all demographics. Interestingly there was only a 3% drop off among those aged 55+ whereas among younger residents the difference between stated intention and action is more stark.

Residents likely to vote in General Election next year (2014 survey)
  • 54%
  • 72%
  • 81%
Residents who voted in General Election (2015 survey)
  • 41%
  • 60%
  • 78%


Although resident access to the internet is increasing and the online landlord services available to them are improving, it is clear that for some transactions residents still want to have more traditional contact with Affinity Sutton.

This continues to support the Customer Strategy to provide services that are 'Digital by Choice' rather than 'Digital by Default' as not all customer groups are comfortable using online services; and even those who are happy transacting online may prefer other communication types depending on what they are doing.


of residents would prefer Affinity Sutton to update them on their repair by telephone even if they had logged the repair online

Affinity Sutton will soon be launching a secure web portal for residents to log-in and pay their rent, check for updates, log repairs and submit enquiries. To understand what early demand for this service might look like, residents were asked how likely they were to use this new service.

Over half (52%) of residents say they are 'Likely' or 'Very Likely' to use the service but 30% say they are 'Very Unlikely' to – some further qualitative research will be required to unpick why those with access to the internet might not want to use this and what can be done to encourage take-up.

How likely residents would be to use the new secure web area
  • 29%
    Very Likely
  • 23%
  • 18%
  • 30%
    Very Unlikely
  • 1%
    Don't know

Only 38% of residents say they are interested in Affinity Sutton’s resident news magazine Shine Online, however three quarters of residents say they read the local publication Neighbourhood News when they receive it.

This highlights an opportunity to ensure key organisational messages are included in the local newsletter. This also indicates that Shine Online might benefit from more localised content where possible. Interest in news from Affinity Sutton varies somewhat by region and we see greater local interest in the North and more general online interest in London.

Interest in Affinity Sutton communications by region

Read Neighbourhood News Interested in Shine Online *
East 75% 36%
London 74% 42%
North 78% 35%
South and South West 72% 34%

*Base: All except those who receive a paper copy


Rising energy costs over the past few years have added to the squeeze on the household finances of low income families. For the most part, falling oil prices have not been passed on to consumers and household energy bills remain a significant concern for Affinity Sutton residents as demonstrated by these survey findings.


of Affinity Sutton residents have gone without heating in the past two years to save money

This year’s survey found that residents are most worried about rising energy bills - over general money issues or even ability to pay their rent. This is concerning because the introduction of Universal Credit will see some residents whose rent was previously paid directly to Affinity Sutton having to make the choice between paying rent and paying for heating and electricity.

  • 47%
    Worried about money issues
  • 32%
    Worried about paying rent
  • 64%
    Worried about rising energy bills

Prepayment meters are an expensive way to pay household energy bills with unit costs higher than most other tariffs. In 2013, we found that 43% of Affinity Sutton residents used prepayment meters compared to 14% and 16% across the UK for gas and electricity respectively. In 2015, this has increased slightly to 45%.

Interestingly, while 30% of these residents use a meter because it was there when they moved in, a surprisingly high proportion say they chose to use a meter as their preferred payment option.

The control that a prepayment meter gives to those on low or irregular incomes may be beneficial, so rather than trying to persuade residents away from their use, perhaps we should refocus attention to encourage energy suppliers to reduce the unit costs.

Resident response: was using an energy prepay meter their choice?
(Base: those on prepay meters)


Market Research Society Company Partner, Qa Research Ltd was commissioned to undertake this year's resident survey with randomised customer contact details provided by Affinity Sutton. A similar methodology was used to previous years and telephone interviews were carried out with a representative sample of 1,004 residents. Quotas were used for age, gender and region and all calls were completed between 24 June to 11 July 2015. The questionnaire design replicated the order that similar questions had appeared in previous years to ensure results were comparable and it was timed to be no more than 15 minutes long to prevent incomplete interviews.

To ensure the survey was as inclusive as possible, calls were made at different times of day including evenings and weekends. Where Affinity Sutton resident data from 2012 and 2013 is cited the source is DJS Research Ltd, where figures for 2015, 2014 and 2011 are used the source is Qa Research Ltd.

Kathy Ellis, Customer Insight Manager


Affinity Sutton would like to thank all residents who participated in this survey and made this report possible. Thanks also to John Stevens, Business Strategist, whose qualitative study provided such useful insights around the quantitative survey data and to Korrey Sutherland, Digital Marketing Executive, without whom this would still be a paper pdf.

Contact us

Published October 2015
Affinity Sutton Group Limited
Level 6, 6 More London Place
Tooley Street, London SE1 2DA

Email: communications@affinitysutton.com

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The Index 2014 The Index 2013