Research shows nearly three-quarters of social housing residents would not be able to cope with an unexpected expense

Resident Voice Index™ project surveyed over 5,700 UK social housing residents, revealing that four out of five are in debt and a quarter are in energy bill arrears

LONDON, 30 November 2022 – The Resident Voice Index™ (RVI), a project that gathers the views of social housing residents from across the UK, released its latest report, Cost of Living: Crunch Time, which indicated most respondents are experiencing a lower quality of life. Based on a survey of 5,700 respondents, the report reveals that almost three-quarters (73%) said they would not be able to cope with an unexpected expense, such as a higher-than-expected household bill.

The report shows that almost one-quarter (24%) of respondents were already in energy bill arrears before the October price cap increases. The research also reveals that 80% of social housing residents are in debt and a third (33%) are unable to manage their debt. In addition, 70% say they are worse off financially than they were six months ago and almost 78% feel worried all or most of the time about meeting monthly living expenses, up from 68% six months ago.

“These results lay bare what we probably all knew to be a worsening situation,” said Doug Sarney, Project Lead for Resident Voice Index™ and Solutions Principal, MRI Software. “However, the extent of the decline from just six months ago when we ran our first study on the cost-of-living crisis is shocking. More than ever, intervention is required to avoid catastrophic consequences for UK social housing residents – it really is crunch time.”

Developed by MRI Software, a trusted provider of software to the social housing sector and wider property market, the short RVI surveys are designed to provide policymakers and housing providers with insights from residents about circumstances impacting their lives. The project’s goal is to shine a light on the resident perspective and ensure that their voice is heard to help improve the experiences of social housing residents.

Other key survey results include: 

  • Consistent with previous findings from the Resident Voice Index™, those under age 35 are having the hardest time, with 87% reporting a high level of worry
  • Approximately 9 in 10 (87%) of under-35s reported being in debt, compared with 40% of pensionable age respondents.
  • Families are struggling more than other groups – 85% of those with dependants were worried all or most of the time compared to 69% of those without dependants.

Gavin Smart, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, noted: “This latest report from the Resident Voice Index comes at a critical time for the social housing sector. The cost-of-living crisis is affecting everyone but those on the lowest incomes, many of whom live in social housing, are impacted the most.”

The free-text answers in the survey demonstrated hopelessness amongst many respondents, who “do not know what to give up next to survive”. Around 2% of respondents were approaching extreme effects on their mental health, signalling a potential crisis in the wellbeing of those living in social housing.

Key quotes from respondents: 

  • “I live hand to mouth already. I’m really worried about how I’m going to cope with rising costs of everything, I’m not living, I’m existing.”
  • “I worry about not being able to feed me and my child after paying all the bills, to get my child to school, paying for uniform.”
  • “I don’t have enough income to pay all my bills. I am getting into arrears, I’m freezing and going without meals.”
  • “I have to choose between electric or eating. I skip most meals everyday so that my child can eat.”
  • “Worry I’ll lose my kids if I can’t afford to keep them warm, fed, clothed and clean.”
  • “Despite our having no debt and managing our money well, we still remain in poverty.”
  • “Could be homeless, me and my family.”
  • “There’s not a minute in the day that I’m not consumed with the thoughts of not having enough money to survive. It’s deeply depressing and your self-worth is really non-existent and I work full time.”
  • “Milk. I can’t even afford milk.”

The Resident Voice Index™ data showed no clear variation in experiences among social housing residents from different areas of the UK, indicating that the burden of associated problems with the cost of living, such as debt and worry, are hitting people in the same way across the country.

Download the full report here.

Notes to editors on the Resident Voice Index™
Over 5,700 self-selecting UK social housing residents completed the survey. The survey ran from 29th August until 10th October 2022. The majority of responses (over 97%) were collected before the October energy price cap hike. In survey development, consultation was undertaken with social housing residents and providers.

The Resident Voice Index™ project is a long-term project that asks questions of a broad spectrum of social housing residents. Previous reports have covered topics such as sense of community, loneliness and the cost of living.

A Residents First Approach means that the project incorporates the resident view at every stage of the project and maintains a laser focus on putting the resident’s needs first.

MRI Software delivers this project to give something back to the social housing sector beyond conventional Corporate Social Responsibility activities, which is why the Resident Voice Index™ is provided as a free resource.

The Resident Voice Index™ is delivered in partnership with several organisations, including Housing Quality Network (HQN), Housing Associations Charitable Trust (HACT) and communications agency, us marketing.

About MRI Software
MRI Software is a leading global provider of real estate software solutions that transform the way communities live, work and play. Its comprehensive suite of cloud-based products and applications that form the MRI Living™ for Social Housing offering delivers flexibility, choice and scale to more than 850 clients in the UK and Ireland. Worldwide, MRI Software serves more than 3,000 organisations in social, affordable, public and community housing. Built on a foundation of industry expertise and innovation, our solutions are helping to create thriving, connected communities and deliver better resident experiences.

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You can download a copy of this report at


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