Clarion Housing Group

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Clarion Housing Group is the largest housing association in the United Kingdom[1] with 125,000 properties across more than 170 local authorities.

Clarion is based in Southwark and was formed in 2016 as a merger of Affinity Sutton and Circle Housing Group. Clare Miller is the Group Chief Executive.

Clarion Housing Group
Founded2016 (2016)
TypeHousing association
  • Level 6, 6 More London Place, Tooley Street. LONDON SE1 (Head Office)
Key people
Clare Miller

Clarion Housing Group[edit]

Clarion Housing Group comprises the Group's housing association and sole landlord, Clarion Housing, charitable foundation, Clarion Futures, and private development company, Latimer.

Clarion Housing[edit]

Clarion's single housing association Clarion Housing launched in January 2018. It is responsible for services to all of the Group's residents, replacing the 10 housing associations that previously existed.

Clarion Futures[edit]

Clarion Futures, the Group's charitable foundation, launched in October 2017 and has pledged to invest £150 million in Clarion's communities over the next 10 years. Clarion Futures supports young residents to give them a better start in life and supports adults to become financially independent. In 2017/18, it helped over 3,000 people into employment and over 200 into apprenticeships.


Latimer is Clarion Housing Group's private development company – delivering and marketing homes for private sale and leading on land acquisition. Revenues generated fund Clarion's affordable rent and sale programme.


As a non-profit distributing housing association, Clarion is subject to the Regulator of Social Housing's regulatory regime. The Regulator of Social Housing sets standards that social landlords are expected to meet. The Regulator focuses on economic regulation and will expect landlords to meet expectations on governance, financial viability, rent setting and value for money.

Affinity Sutton[edit]

Affinity Sutton was one of the largest providers of affordable housing in England managing over 58,000 homes[2] and properties in over 120 local authorities.[3] As a housing association, Affinity Sutton built and managed a range of homes for people with a variety of needs and budgets. As well as owning and managing properties, Affinity Sutton delivered a number of community focused services in the areas that they work. On 30 November 2016, Affinity Sutton merged with Circle Housing to form Clarion Housing Group and become the UK's largest housing association. They used the slogan "Helping people put down roots".

Rental and home ownership[edit]

Affinity Sutton's core purpose was to build and manage rental homes at sub-market rates for those who cannot afford to pay full market rates in the areas where they live. In addition, they also offered accommodation for key workers and those of retirement age and social rented accommodation. Other services they provided include supported housing which delivers extra care and support to vulnerable people and Rent 4 Less which is for working people, with prices at up to 80% of what might be paid in the private rental sector.

Affinity Sutton also provided a number of routes that aim to make home ownership more accessible. Shared ownership, also called part buy part rent, is designed for those that cannot afford to buy a home with a mortgage outright. In 2010, in partnership with Santander, Affinity Sutton launched a 95% mortgage deal for customers looking to buy their home through shared ownership.[4] Affinity Sutton also offer an Equity loan to help towards home ownership.

To fund their social housing, Affinity Sutton developed a limited number of properties for open market sale – either in partnership with another developer or on their own account.


The community services Affinity Sutton offered aimed to give support to people living in their homes and improve their neighbourhood. This ranges from providing facilities for children to play, increasing access to computer facilities, youth clubs, sports clubs and courses and workshops where individuals can learn skills such as managing money and employment and job training.

Affinity Sutton had over 60 community centres across the country which are used by local residents and businesses to run community events and initiatives.

First Base is a structured programme of support that Affinity Sutton provide for young people aged between 18–25 to ensure they have the skills needed to manage and maintain their tenancies and to create a safe and secure home. Initially piloted in Bromley, the scheme has rolled out across Bromley, Lewisham, Hertsmere the North East and Humberside.

Group structure[edit]

Affinity Sutton Group Limited comprised:

  • Affinity Sutton Capital Markets Plc
  • Affinity Sutton Community Foundation
  • Affinity Sutton Funding Limited
  • Affinity Sutton Homes Limited
  • Affinity Sutton Investments Limited
  • Affinity Sutton Repairs Limited
  • Affinity Sutton Professional Services Limited
  • Broomleigh Regeneration Limited
  • Community Building Services (CBS) Limited
  • Downland Regeneration Limited
  • Grange Management (Southern) Limited
  • William Sutton Developments Limited

Group Executive Team[edit]

The last Group Executive Team consisted of:[5]

  • Chief Executive – Keith Exford
  • Group Resources Director – Jonathan Cawthra
  • Group Operations Director – Neil McCall
  • Group Director of Governance and Compliance – Clare Miller
  • Group Commercial Director – Michelle Reynolds
  • Group Director of Finance – Mark Washer


Affinity Sutton funded its activities through both private funding vehicles and Government grants. As a private, non-profit distributing housing association, it reinvests its surplus into building new homes and supporting the communities in which its residents live.

It borrowed £250 million through a bond issue in 2008, which at the time was the largest own-name bond issue by a housing association, and the first AA-rated bond from the sector.[6] A second £250 million bond was issued in 2012 at the then lowest interest rate in the sector (4.25% for 30 years).[7]

As the late-2000s financial crisis reduced the viability of property developments, Affinity Sutton wrote off £13 million from asset values in its balance sheet in 2009, which was the largest impairment booked by a housing association to that date. Unlike smaller associations, it was able to bear the loss without requiring additional public grant.[8]

Affinity Sutton won the second largest award of grant funding in the Homes and Communities Agency's 2011–15 programme, but as of 2013 is unlikely to deliver all the 3,000 homes promised, because of difficulties in getting higher "affordable rents" agreed with local authorities.[9]


The history of Affinity Sutton can be traced back to 1900 when Victorian entrepreneur, William Richard Sutton bestowed his fortune to a charitable trust in his will to provide ‘model dwellings and houses for occupation by the poor of London and other towns and populous places in England’. This formed the Sutton Dwellings Trust.

In 1909, Sutton Dwellings Trust's first new homes were completed at the Bethnal Green Estate in East London and by 1925 the Trust had developed almost 2,000 homes across six sites, including the Chelsea Estate in South West London.

In 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, the Trust housed over 32,000 people.

In 1964, Downland was formed by a group of local businessmen in Sussex led by engineer, Archibald Shaw.

In 1990, Mid Sussex Housing Association was formed as one of the very first Large Scale Voluntary Transfers when homes from Mid Sussex District Council were transferred from public ownership.

In 1992, Broomleigh was formed as the first urban Large Scale Voluntary Transfer of homes from the London Borough of Bromley.

In 1994, Ridgehill Housing Association was formed through the large scale voluntary transfer of Hertsmere Borough Council's homes.

In 1996, Downland Housing Society and Mid Sussex Housing Association came together to form the Downland Housing Group.

In 2000, Community Building Services was set up to deliver repairs and maintenance services to Ridgehill residents.

In 2001, Aashyana, the South West's first Asian led housing association, joined William Sutton Trust.

In 2004, Downland Retirement Management and Downland Property Management merged to form Grange Management Group. Downland Housing Group and The Affinity Homes Group then merged to become Downland Affinity and create one of the sector's largest groups.

In 2005, William Sutton and Ridgehill Boards agree to amalgamate and form a new association, called William Sutton Homes. Downland Affinity and William Sutton Homes then merged in 2006 to become one of the largest housing groups in the sector, Affinity Sutton.

In 2007, former MP Kerry Pollard was removed as Chair of William Sutton Homes, after he had complained about the behaviour of the new parent company in removing the association's chief executive.[10][11]

In 2009, Affinity Sutton celebrated 100 years since their first housing project in Bethnal Green. In 2011, William Sutton Homes, Downland and Broomleigh amalgamated to form Affinity Sutton Homes.

In 2014, Aashyana transferred its engagements to Affinity Sutton Homes.

Circle Housing[edit]

Circle Housing Group (or Circle) was one of the largest groups of housing associations in the UK. In 2016 it merged with Affinity Sutton and was renamed Clarion Housing Group, becoming the largest UK Housing Association and registered provider of social housing. Clarion provides affordable housing and related services in England, mainly in London, the South East, East Anglia and Birmingham.

The group was formed as Circle Anglia when Circle 33 Housing Group and Anglia Housing Group merged in 2005.[12] Circle owns and manages more than 63,500 homes, including supported and sheltered housing, for more than 200,000 people across the UK, and employs over 2,200 staff.

The Circle Housing Group has 12 partners. Nine registered providers (RPs): South Anglia Housing, Wherry Housing Association, Old Ford Housing Association, Circle 33, Merton Priory Homes, Mole Valley Housing Association, Mercian Housing Association, Roddons Housing Association and Russet Homes; as well as Circle Living for sales and marketing and management of shared ownership, market rent and private sale properties. It has two care and support partners – Circle Support and INVICTA Telecare – one of the largest Telecare providers in England.

Circle belongs to two regional clubs of large associations: the G15 in London,[13] and East Seven in East Anglia.[14]


Housing associations borrow money to pay for new homes and improvements. During the financial crisis of 2007–2008, banks were less able to provide all the credit that larger associations required, although Circle raised £1.7 billion in bank debt as the credit crunch developed.[15] In November 2008, Circle Anglia raised £275 million on a 30-year corporate bond. This is the largest bond ever issued by a housing association in its own name.[16] In November 2010, Circle was the first housing group to go to investors after the new government's comprehensive spending review, and raised £124m through a bond tap.[17]


The members of the group were:[18]

Name Established Activity Size
Circle 33 Housing Trust 1968 General needs housing 15,600 homes
Mole Valley Housing Association 2007 Housing management in Mole Valley following a stock transfer of Council housing in 2007 3,800 homes
Old Ford Housing Association 1998 Housing management in Old Ford as the successor to Tower Hamlets Housing Action Trust. Winner of the Housing Corporation's 2008 Gold Award for Building Cohesive Communities. Includes Orchard Village in Havering. 4,000 homes
Roddons Housing Association 2007 Stock transfer from Fenland District Council
Russet Homes 1991 Stock transfer from Tonbridge and Malling 6,000 homes
South Anglia Housing Merger of the former Stort Valley, Vange and Ryeland Housing Associations, which were all set up to handle stock transfers, as well as Blackwater, and Barking and Dagenham 6,400 homes
Wherry Housing Association 1990 Formed for stock transfer of 3,700 homes from Broadland. Now owns properties in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire 5,800 homes
Circle Support Special needs care and support Over 4,500 clients
Invicta Telecare Telecare and housing support Over 85,000 clients
Circle Living Originally the 'Homes' division of Circle 33, it handles shared ownership, leasehold and maintenance services


As Affinity Sutton[edit]

  • Sunday Times British Homes Awards – highly commended in the Housing Project category for The Square.[19]
  • NHF Affordable Home Ownership Awards- Highly Commended for Maple Quays, Canada Water
  • Green Apple Award – Built Environment – Best Use of Mixed Development at Durand Close, Carshalton.
  • Construction News Retrofit Project of the Year – Affinity Sutton's national retrofitting project, FutureFit, named Retrofit Project of the Year.
  • SHIFT Award – supported by the Homes and Communities Agency, UK Green Building Council, WWF and the TSA – FutureFit, Affinity Sutton’s national retrofitting project, was praised as “outstanding research assisting the sector understand sustainability challenges.”
  • Winner Housing Association of the Year, 2011 – WhatHouse? Awards
  • Big Tick Reaccreditation – Affinity Sutton retained its Big Tick status in 2012 for its work in Building Stronger Communities in the Business in the Community Awards for Excellence
  • Sustainable Housing Awards 2012 – winner, Social housing provider of the year – Innovative approach to green homes award[20]


  • In the 2010 Inside Housing survey of Chief Executive salaries, Keith Exford, CEO of Affinity Sutton, was highlighted as receiving the highest bonus in the Social housing sector.[21]
  • The Homes and Communities Agency, which regulates social housing in England and Wales, ruled in early 2015 that Circle had breached the 'serious detriment' threshold for harm to consumers for its home repairs, due to "chronic and long standing difficulties in the delivery of the repairs service".[22] Islington Borough Council had served a number of statutory notices on Circle after they had failed to repair homes in the Borough. The problems followed after Circle reduced its pool of contractors from 180 to six, in an attempt to save £100m over ten years.[23] In April 2015, the regulator concluded that the failures stemmed from poor management of the risks, and ultimately, governance:

this exceptionally poor provision of repairs and maintenance has been made possible or contributed to by serious and enduring failures in, or in the operation of, Circle’s strategic planning and control framework such that Circle did not adequately manage or mitigate the strategic and operational risks inherent in the delivery of that service[24]

Neil McCall, housing association chief executive at Clarion Housing Group, explains in more detail what the group is doing

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Guardian,
  2. ^ "About us". Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Affinity Sutton – Where We Work". Archived from the original on 25 August 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  4. ^ Jones, Rupert (31 July 2010). "The Guardian – Santander & Affinity Sutton Launch Shared Ownership Scheme". London.
  5. ^ Sutton, Affinity. "Group Executive Team". Affinity Sutton. Affinity Sutton. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  6. ^ Crispin Dowler (19 September 2008). "Big bond success". Inside Housing. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  7. ^ insidehousing (27 September 2012). "Landlord achieves record rate for £250m bond". Inside Housing. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  8. ^ Affinity writes down £13m, Inside Housing, 31 July 2009. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  9. ^ insidehousing (2 August 2013). "Delivery concerns at Affinity Sutton". Inside Housing. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  10. ^ Martin Hilditch (13 July 2007). "Chief executive resigns following boardroom fallout at housing association giant". Inside Housing. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  11. ^ Hutchings, E. (19 July 2007). "Whistleblowers ousted from housing firm". Borehamwood & Elstree Times. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
  12. ^ History page on group website
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 December 2009. Retrieved 14 June 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Seven of the largest housing associations in the east of England have clubbed together Archived 3 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Inside Housing, 23 June 2008
  15. ^ Circle Anglia snares £1.7bn loan despite crunch, Telegraph Online"
  16. ^ Circle Anglia breaks bond record with £275m deal, Inside Housing, 11 November 2008
  17. ^ Association taps bond market for £124m, Inside Housing, 17 November 2010
  18. ^ Partnership Members Archived 10 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine on the group website
  19. ^ "Sunday Times British Homes Awards – The Square".
  20. ^ "Sustainable Housing Awards 2012". Inside Housing. 2 November 2012. Archived from the original on 10 August 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  21. ^ Stockdale, Lydia (23 September 2010). "Average chief exec salary tops £150k". Inside Housing. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  22. ^ Regulator slams landlord for its London repairs service Archived 24 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Inside Housing, 11 February 2015
  23. ^ Tower Hamlets mayor consults lawyers over Circle Archived 24 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Islington Gazette 12 February 2015
  24. ^ Regulatory judgement: Circle Anglia Limited, Homes and Communities Agency 2 April 2015

External links[edit]