News June 28, 2022

Over half of social housing residents have turned to credit or buy-now-pay-later services for essential expenses, survey reveals

Latest Resident Voice IndexTM finding also shows that close to seven in 10 worry about being able to afford fundamental living costs

London, 28 June 2022 – Over half (53%) of social housing residents surveyed say they have used credit or a buy-now-pay-later service to cover an essential household cost such as a food shop or a bill in the last 12 months, according to the latest output from the Resident Voice Index™ (RVI) initiative. The survey of over 5,200 social housing residents on the impact of the cost of living crisis also reveals that nearly seven in 10 respondents (68%) worry all or most of the time about meeting normal monthly living expenses.

“The survey makes it clear that households are having to make tough choices,” says Doug Sarney, Project Lead for the Resident Voice IndexTM and Director at MRI Software. “Alongside over half of respondents reporting that they have had to use credit or deferred payment schemes to meet essential household costs, a further 20% considered doing so. We are seeing a ticking time bomb for households on the edge of coping.”

The Resident Voice Index™ is an independent project that anonymously gathers the views of social housing residents in the UK. 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 their neighbourhoods and communities. The goal of the project is to ensure the voice of the resident is heard to improve the experiences of social housing residents.

Other key results of the survey include:

  • Almost nine in 10 of those under age 35 say they are using or considering using buy-now-pay-later or credit to pay for essential household costs
  • 82% of those under 35 report being worried all the time or most of the time about meeting normal monthly living expenses
  • Only 4% of all respondents say they rarely worry about money
  • Over half (56%) of all respondents didn’t know that help or support would be available to them if they faced a financial struggle
  • Almost six in 10 (58%) respondents do not feel that they have the power to influence their future financial situation

One of the most significant indicators of the challenges being faced was the use of the word ‘food’ in the free-text input from the latest Resident Voice Index™ survey. Analysis of these answers reveals numerous examples of parents skipping meals to feed children, increased use of food banks and people eating only cold food to avoid using domestic energy.

A core theme that emerges from the results is that residents feel there is nothing more to cut. Many respondents indicate that they are already living on tight budgets.

“This is not just an instance of forgoing holidays, trips out with the family or self-proclaimed luxuries,” Sarney notes. “Instead, for a proportion of those who answered, it is applying increased pressure to already bare-bones living. For those of pension age or who are unable to work – for example, because of disability or raising children – earning more money is simply not an option.”

Sarney concludes: “We anticipated the survey results to be hard hitting. However, we were not prepared for the high levels of desperation, extreme worry and hopelessness in the responses. References to catastrophic mental health slides and suicide were common in the free-text input of respondents. Our hope by sharing these accounts is to inspire anyone with the ability to enact change to do so.”

The Resident Voice IndexTM
Over 5,200 UK social housing residents completed the survey (self-selecting sample). The survey ran from March 25 – 8 May 2022. Prior to collection, consultation was also undertaken with social housing residents and providers.

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

Residents First Approach: the project incorporates the resident view at every stage of the project; reports are published to residents 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 delivered as a free resource.

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 create thriving, connected communities and deliver better resident experiences.

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