Women are locked out of the housing market by gender pay gap

Researchers found no English region in which a woman on average earnings could afford to rent a home, and said the gendered effects of the housing crisis are driving up homelessness

Women are being locked out of the housing market because the gender pay gap is leaving them unable to afford a home.

New data reveals that there is no region in England where the average home to rent is affordable for a woman on median earnings.

A report by campaigners Women’s Housing Forum and the Women’s Budget Group argues that housing is one of the most urgent public policy issues in the country, highlighting a housing system “in crisis”, the causes and impacts of which are gendered.

Researchers said women’s incomes being lower relative to men’s shuts them out of the housing market.

‘A home of her own, women and housing’ found that women need more than 12 times their salary to buy a home in England, compared to eight times for men.

The report, produced in partnership with Coventry Women’s Partnership, shows that this is not the case for men on median earnings, who could afford a home to rent in every region except London and the South East.

Women’s caring responsibilities make finding a suitable home for themselves and their families more challenging, it said, while divorced women and those from black and minority ethnic groups were most likely to struggle for housing.

Across England as a whole, rent takes an average of 43 per cent of women’s earnings and 28 per cent of men’s.

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Dr Sara Reis, author of the report, said: “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.”

The widest gap in housing affordability between men and women was found to be the South East and East – where the gender pay gap is the largest.

The report also pointed to Universal Credit as a factor in the housing crisis, with the five-week wait period forcing people into rent arrears.

And woman were proven to be hardest hit by cuts to housing benefits as they make up 60 per cent of claimants.

Cuts and changes to benefits, coupled with a critical shortage of social housing, is driving up the number of evictions and adding to soaring homelessness rates.

While the vast majority of people recorded sleeping rough are men (84 per cent), women sleeping rough face specific challenges and they often have experiences of abuse, trauma and violence.

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.”