In 1929, Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own was published. Its premise was simple: women writers had not had the opportunity to express their genius because a lack of money and privacy presented a huge barrier to them doing so.
In writing "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write," Woolf was at once acknowledging her own privilege – as a wealthy woman with multiple rooms of her own – and laying bare the unequal and gendered economics of wealth and creativity.
It’s fitting, then, that the Women’s Budget Group has referenced Woolf in the title of its new report, "A home of her own: women and housing" which concludes that nowhere – not a single place – in the United Kingdom right now is housing affordable for women.
Just as there is a gender pay gap in Britain, the Women’s Budget Group’s new data confirms that women also face a gender housing gap.
Woolf’s 'room' was always about more than space to write. It was a metaphor for economic independence at a time when very few women were able to afford spaces of their own. Almost 100 years later, this report tells a similar story.
Britain is currently facing a housing crisis of epic proportions. You probably already know this; the odds are that it is affecting you in some way. Things are now so bad that at the end of last year, housing charity Shelter declared the situation to be "a national emergency".
Since 2011, rents in England have risen 60% faster than wages. On top of that, the average house price is now eight times the average income of ordinary working families, meaning that unaffordable and often unstable private rented accommodation is the only option for a growing number of people. All this has pushed more people into homelessness, seeing the number of families who are homeless but in work go up by 73% since 2013.
Routes out of these problems are dwindling before our eyes. Housing affordability is now at its lowest level since the global financial crisis and growing numbers of young people – up to a third, to be precise – face the prospect of renting throughout their entire lives.
There can be no doubt that the housing crisis has hit women harder than men. According to the Women’s Budget Group’s new report, here are the main ways in which Britain’s housing crisis disproportionately disadvantages women...