2020 WBG Briefing: Housing and gender

Date Posted: Wednesday 26th February 2020

March 2020


View and download our full briefing here.

Key points

  • Housing is central to people’s daily lives. Housing can contribute to living standards, opportunities and wellbeing. However, housing can also contribute to poverty, disadvantage and poor health.
  • Women’s housing situation differs from that of men, and is generally less good.
  • No region in England is affordable to rent in the private market on women’s median earnings. As for buying property, the median home in England costs over 12 times women’s median wages (8 times for men).
  • 67% of adults in households accepted as statutorily homeless are women[1] , reflecting their risk of loss of secure housing, and their responsibility for caring for children.
  • 60% of adults in households claiming housing benefit are women[2] reflecting women’s lower incomes.
  • 57% of adults in social renting are women,[3] reflecting women’s lower incomes.
  • Since 2010 there has been 1) a sharp reduction in overall government spending on housing, 2) reductions in housing benefit rates and eligibility, and 3) changes to the size and status of the social housing sector. All of these have reduced the ‘housing welfare safety net’ and disadvantaged women in particular.
  • Government policy since 2010 has focused on supporting those at the margins of home ownership, rather than on those in greatest housing need. Schemes such as Help to Buy have been costly, and yet supported the relatively advantaged, at the same that time that housing benefit has been reduced for some of the most vulnerable, including poorer women, through measures such as the ‘bedroom tax’.

The treatment of housing assets, rental income and imputed rents (the flow of benefits home owners get from their homes) in the taxation system is generous, and has been an overlooked option for fiscal and housing policy goals.

[1] MHCLG livetable 780 for 2017/18. Only ‘experimental’ data are available for 2018/19. Calculation assumes couple household claimants include an equal total number of men and women, and exclude ‘other’ households

[2] Department of Work and Pensions (2018) Housing Benefit Caseload Statistics: data to May 2018

[3] MHCLG livetable FA1221(S108) for 2017/18

View and download our full briefing here.