Women and Housing by Leia Hope Jalali

Gender inequality is pervasive in the housing sector.

Although housing is one of the most pressing public policy issues in the UK, the fact that our housing crisis, its impacts, and its causes are primarily gendered is a topic that is relatively untouched and/or ignored.

Women earn less than men; thus, they are less able to afford housing in comparison to men. This is evidenced by the following shocking statistics:

  • As of May 2018, there were a total of 983,658 single parents with dependent children claiming Housing Benefits. Of that number, 927,008 were single mothers. That equates to 94%.[1]
  • According to the Women’s Budget Group, there is currently “no region in England where private rented housing is affordable on women’s median earnings.”[2] This heavily contrasts with the fact that men are able to rent a median home anywhere in England apart from London.
    • On average, women in the private rented sector spend 55% of their total income on rent, whereas men only spend 36%.[3]
  • With regards to buying a home, women have to spend over 12 times their annual salaries to be able to afford a home in England, while men only spend just above 8 times[4]

The statistics surrounding women and homelessness are equally as eye-opening.

There is a common misconception that only men are severely impacted by homelessness. This is reflected by the fact that nearly 85% of all documented rough sleepers in England are men.[5] However, rough sleeping, although the most visible type of homelessness, is only one facet of what it means to be homeless.

Women are often overlooked when it comes to homelessness statistics as women dominate a more “hidden” form of homelessness. For every visible homeless person on streets, there are 12 households are categorised as hidden homeless.[6]

  • 67% of all statutory homeless people are women.[7]
  • There are 39,140 single parent families with dependent children living in temporary accommodation. 92% of those families are single mothers.[8]
  • 12% of all homeless households are caused by male-perpetuated domestic violence towards women.[9]

These structural inequalities (i.e. the gender pay gap, gendered societal roles, gender-based violence) prevent women from accessing affordable, long-term housing. Until this is resolved and until more social and affordable homes are made available, women will continue to be severely negatively impacted by the housing crisis.

[1] Department for Work and Pensions, Housing Benefit caseload statistics. (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/housing-benefit-caseload-statistics)

[2] Women’s Budget Group, A home of her own: housing and women. (https://wbg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/WBG19-Housing-report-exec-sum-digital.pdf)

[3] Inside Housing, Housing is a women’s rights issue. (https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/insight/insight/housing-is-a-womens-rights-issue-58746)

[4] Women’s Budget Group, A home of her own: housing and women.

[5] Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, Rough sleeping snapshot in England: Autumn 2020. (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/rough-sleeping-snapshot-in-england-autumn-2020)

[6] Women’s Budget Group, A home of her own: housing and women.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, Statutory homelessness in England: July to September 2020. (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statutory-homelessness-in-england-july-to-september-2020)

[9] Women’s Budget Group, A home of her own: housing and women.