Housing Is Less Affordable Than Ever For Young Women

Photographed by Meg O'Donnell
In 2019 the Women’s Budget Group found that just as there is a gender pay gap in England, women also face a gender housing gap. After conducting national research, they found that there was not a single place in the country where it was affordable for the average woman to buy or rent a home of her own. 
Eighteen months into the coronavirus pandemic, it is being reported that house prices across the country (but particularly outside of London) are reaching record highs in spite of all the economic uncertainty we’ve faced. At the same time, letting agencies are reporting that rents are rising to record levels outside of the capital. 
There are few people in the country who are unaffected by the crisis in housing, whether that’s poor conditions in social homes, unaffordable private rents, rogue landlords or high house prices. These latest developments, however, are particularly bad news for women. 
The Women’s Budget Group has told Refinery29 exclusively that the situation has worsened significantly since they published their 2019 report. 
As we emerge from a global pandemic which turned housing into a vital frontline defence against coronavirus, this data shows that for too many women, safe and secure homes are becoming ever more unaffordable. 
Firstly, this is because women’s median annual (this means average but is the most accurate way of calculating it) earnings are 36% lower than men’s. In 2019 they were 34% lower so that gap has widened, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Secondly, that has occurred against a backdrop of rising housing costs, which means that housing affordability has got worse for everyone over the last two years. The average full-time worker now needs 10 times their salary to be able to afford the average home in England.
However, for women, it’s worse because they earn less than men on average. According to the Women’s Budget Group’s analysis, women now need 12.6 times their (average) salary to be able to afford a house in England. That is up from 12.2 times in 2019. This means that the gender gap in affordability has widened. It was 4.1 in 2019 and increased to 4.5 in 2020. Men, on average, need 8.1 times their salary to buy. 
In the private rented sector things aren’t much better. Rents in the private sector in England are on average £730 per month. They absorb 43% of the average women’s salary, compared to 29% of men’s. 

Women now need 12.6 times their (average) salary to be able to afford a house in England. That is up from 12.2 times in 2019. This means that the gender gap in affordability has widened.

It is widely accepted that if housing costs exceed a third of your salary then they are unaffordable. By these calculations, women cannot afford to privately rent homes in England. 
As well as gender, race comes into the picture too. The Women’s Budget Group also points out that the gender housing gap for some groups of BME women – particularly women from Pakistani and Bangladeshi and Black African backgrounds – because they have lower average earnings.
A spokesperson for the Women’s Budget Group said: "House prices have risen sharply since 2019 and home ownership is moving further away from people’s grasp because salaries have not kept pace."
"Because women earn less, housing is even less affordable. The average rented house in England continues to be unaffordable for women. We urgently need to fix our broken housing system, build more social housing and homes that are truly affordable for all, including women."

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