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Housing report: women even priced out of renting


Women's Budget Group, report, women and housing, renting, homelessness, purchasing power, recommendations for changeThe majority of statutory homeless people are women.

Rising house prices and the gender pay gap means that there is no region in England where a single woman on median earnings can afford to rent or buy an averagely priced house, according to a new report.

The report, ‘A home of her own, housing and women‘, by the Women’s Budget Group and Women’s Housing Forum, and part of a project with the Coventry Women’s Partnership, shows that:

The average home to rent is affordable for men on median earnings in every region except London and the South East;

There is no region in England where the average home to rent is affordable for a woman on median earnings;

Housing is classed as unaffordable if it takes more than a third of the purchaser’s income;

Across England as a whole average rents take 43 per cent of women’s median earnings and 28 per cent of men’s;

Social security and housing reforms since 2012 have broken the link between rent and housing benefit levels, and 90 per cent of private renters on housing benefit in 2015 were 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 when you apply 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;

These benefit cuts and changes, accompanied by a severe shortage of social and affordable housing, are leading to increasing numbers of evictions and homelessness;

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;

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;

The report also looked 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.

The 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.

To counter this, the report says:

Central government should invest in social housing to spread the benefits of the housing safety net more widely and save billions of pounds in housing benefit;

The government should make it easier for local authorities to build and invest in housing, including by scrapping the HRA borrowing cap;

Housing funding pots for local authorities should be streamlined;

Cuts to local government funding should be reversed and deprivation included in funding formula by central government;

Local housing allowance rates should be restored to local average private rents and rise in line with them each year.

The roll out of universal credit should be halted until adequate impact assessments are carried out;

The benefit cap should be scrapped to prevent people having to choose between a roof over their heads or food on the table;

Local councils’ homelessness duties should be extended to all residents who need them, including women with no recourse to public funds;

The model for Domestic Violence and Abuse refuge funding should be reviewed to ensure women who cannot claim housing benefit are not excluded from support;

Money for Domestic Violence and Abuse refuges should be ringfenced andlocal authorities should cooperate closely with local specialist women’s organisations to organise refuge provision;

Councils should collect sex-disaggregated data on homelessness and rough-sleeping to inform their local homeless strategies, and

Local councils and housing associations must recognise the links between homelessness and domestic abuse/violence against women and girls for women and provide women-only accommodation where it is not available or insufficient.

The report’s 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.”

To read the full report click here.

Please forward this to your MP.

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