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News22 December 2022

New survey from Clarion and Opinium: cost of living crisis hitting social housing residents hardest

Findings from a survey commissioned by Clarion Housing Group and carried out by Opinium show that the cost of living crisis is most acute for people living in social housing.

The Opinium poll of 2,000 adults living in England* found the following:

  • Almost half (43%) of social renters have no savings to cushion the impact of the rising cost of living;
  • One in three social renters (33%) have gone without food in the last three months because they couldn’t afford it;
  • More than a quarter (28%) of social housing residents pay for their energy via prepayment meter, meaning those on the lowest incomes are paying the most for their energy due to higher tariffs.

Phil Miles, Director at Clarion Housing Group, commented:

“Social landlords like Clarion provide a home to some of the most vulnerable people in our society and even though our residents benefit from paying heavily subsidised rents, many are still in a precarious financial position.

“Every year we help thousands of our residents through our charitable foundation, but with the cost of living crisis biting, now is the time to do more. In order to support our residents through these turbulent times, we have pledged an additional £500,000 through our Cost of Living Emergency Fund, and we look forward to working with government to do all we can to help mitigate the impacts of the national economic pressures.

“Energy suppliers also have a part to play, and we’re urging them to reduce energy prices for those on prepayment meters to the same levels as other payment methods, helping to provide some breathing space for those hardest hit by the cost of living crisis.”

The finding that more than four in ten people (43%) living in social housing have no savings contrasts sharply with the experience of homeowners, where just one in ten have no savings to their name. 60% of social renters report being in debt, with almost a quarter (22%) having debts of more than £2,500.

Questions around personal finances showed that on average, social renters spend almost one fifth** (18%) of their monthly pre-tax income on groceries and energy bills, while private renters and homeowners spend a much lower proportion – 13% and 11% respectively.

One in three social renters (33%) say they’ve gone without food in the last three months because they couldn’t afford it (private renters: 22%; homeowners: 12%), with almost a quarter (22%) saying they’ve used a food bank in the last three months to help make ends meet (private renters: 10%; homeowners: 6%).

Prospects for Christmas and beyond

Looking ahead to the festive season, almost two thirds of social renters (60%) said they were planning to cut back on Christmas spending this year, compared to 64% of private renters and 58% of homeowners, showing that the cost of living is affecting celebrations for almost everyone.

Finally, whilst tackling the current cost of living crisis is the immediate concern, the research also found that 62% of social renters have no private pension, highlighting a longer-term challenge facing these households.

*Online research conducted by Opinium amongst 2,000 adults aged 18+ in England only between 4-14 November 2022, with respondents split equally between social renters, private renters and owner occupiers.

**Figure calculated by dividing average household income by twelve, adding average monthly spend on energy bills and groceries, and then calculating the percentage of outgoing spending to average monthly income.

According to the survey, the average household income for social renters was £24,446 per year, compared to £35,809 per year for private renters and £47,636 for homeowners.