Housing is unaffordable for women in every English region, says new report

By agency reporter
July 26, 2019

Rising house prices and the gender pay gap means that there is no English region where a single woman on median earnings can afford to rent or buy an averagely priced house according to a new report from the Women’s Budget Group and Women’s Housing Forum. The report is delivered as part of a project with the Coventry Women’s Partnership.

The report,  A home of her own, housing and women, shows that:

For renters:

  • There is no region in England where the average home to rent is affordable for a woman on median earnings.
  • The average home to rent is affordable for men on median earnings in every region except London and the South East.
  • Across England as a whole average rents take 43 per cent of women’s median earnings and 28 per cent of men’s.

When buying a house:

  • Women need over 12 times their annual salaries to be able to buy a home in England, while men need just over eight times.
  • The worst regions in housing buying affordability for women (and men) are London and the South East, where women need nearly 18 times and 16 times their annual earnings to afford a house (respectively).
  • The regions with the widest gap in affordability between women and men are the South East and the East. This is where the gender pay gap (as measured by gross annual earnings of full time and part time workers) is the largest.

Mortgage eligibility:

The report also looks at the median earnings by region and how far median earnings for men and women in each region fall short of income required for a mortgage.  Our findings show that:

  • When it comes to buying a house with a typical mortgage, women’s incomes fall over 50 per cent short in most regions, excluding in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.
  • Men’s incomes only fall over 50 per cent short in London and the South East.

Social Security and Housing:

  • Reforms since 2012 have broken the link between rent and housing benefit levels, with 90 per cent of private renters on housing benefit in 2015 facing shortfalls.
  • Women make up 60 per cent of housing benefit claimants and so are being disproportionately affected by these cuts.
  • Universal credit is also having a negative impact. The five-week wait period on application is leaving many people in rent arrears: tenants on universal credit are six times more likely to fall behind on rent than other benefit claimants.
  • The benefit cap has a detrimental impact on large families’ incomes, and specifically on housing, as housing benefit is the first element to be cup once the threshold is reached.
  • These benefit cuts and changes, accompanied by a severe shortage of social and affordable housing, are leading to increasing numbers of evictions and homelessness.

Women and Homelessness:

  • The vast majority of people recorded sleeping rough are men (84 per cent). However, women rough sleepers face specific challenges and their experience is very often linked to abuse, trauma and violence. They are less likely to access mainstream services and be visible on the streets.
  • The majority of statutory homeless people are women (67 per cent).
  • Single mothers are two-thirds (66 per cent) of all statutory homeless families with children (they are just one quarter of all families with dependent children).

The report author, Dr Sara Reis, said: “Housing is one of the most urgent public policy issues in the UK with large number of people pushed into poverty by housing costs or unable to afford to rent or buy. But our report shows that this crisis of housing affordability is far worse for women than for men.   Although women and men tend to buy or rent their homes as a couple, women are likely to find themselves unable to afford a home of their own if that relationship breaks down. We are calling on central government to invest in social housing to spread the benefits of the housing safety net more widely and save billions of pounds in housing benefit.”

Denise Fowler, chief executive of Women’s Pioneer Housing and Co- Chair of the Women’s Housing Forum said: “This report highlights the link between providing women with safe, secure, good quality, affordable accommodation and the wider fight for women’s equality. Without a safe secure affordable home of her own no woman can achieve her potential.  I hope it will be a call to action across the UK.”

* Read A Home of Her Own: housing and women here

* Women's Budget Group https://wbg.org.uk/

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