THE HOUSING (UN)AFFORDABILITY CRISIS

Women and the housing (un)affordability crisis

It’s no secret that we’re facing a huge housing crisis in the UK at the moment. Several organisations are campaigning hard for a change in lending rules, for the government to invest in more social and affordable housing, and for the private-rented market to be more closely regulated. What is often missing from these conversations is the gendered aspect of our housing crisis. At the Women’s Budget Group, we decided to change that.

Housing is a feminist issue. This is because women face structural inequalities that result in economic disadvantage and endemic levels of domestic violence and abuse (DVA). Gender norms are translated into labour segregation and a looser attachment to the labour market because women are disproportionately responsible for (unpaid) care work. Women earn less per hour and overall, since they are more likely to be in part-time and lower paid jobs. 


Domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls typically occur in the home. According to the Femicide Census, 75% of women killed by men are killed at home, and 83% of women killed by a partner or former partner are killed in their own homes. The widespread levels of violence against women, and intimate partner violence in particular, means that housing interlinks with women’s safety in ways that doesn’t for men.


Housing is currently unaffordable to most people. But the average numbers obfuscate the differences in affordability for women and men. If women earn less than men, they will have a harder time affording a home of their own. In England, men need on average eight times their annual salary to buy a home – and women need 12. Housing affordability varies across regions, depending on the difference between house prices and wages. But the gender housing affordability gap also varies depending on how much the regional difference between women’s and men’s earnings is. So even though London is the least affordable region for all, the South East is where the gender housing affordability gap is widest: women need almost 16 times their annual salary to buy a home, whereas men need only 10.

There is also a gender gap in affordability when it comes to private rents. A home is considered affordable when it absorbs less than a third of a family’s income. At the Women’s Budget Group, we found that no region is affordable for women on median earnings, whereas men can afford everywhere except London. 

Housing unaffordability is even greater for BME women, who are more likely to live in poverty, less likely to be in employment and because they earn less than White British women. Disabled women also face serious problems affording a home that is suitable for them, due to the lack of houses that are adapted and disabled women’s lower incomes.

Even though many people rent or buy with their partner, being unable to afford a home of their own means many women will find it harder to leave unwanted or abusive relationships, facing homelessness in the process.

The visible face of homelessness - rough sleeping - is overwhelmingly male. Men make up the vast majority (84%) of rough sleepers. But rough sleeping is just the tip of the iceberg: for every rough sleeper there are 12 households who are homeless, including people living in temporary accommodation, sofa-surfing or living temporarily with family or friends. Women make up over two-thirds (67%) of all homeless adults.

Single mothers are one of the most disadvantaged groups when it comes to securing a home fit for their needs, and this is translated into homelessness: single mothers represent two-thirds (66%) of homeless families with children. Many are living in unsuitable temporary accommodation with their children, like hostels and B&Bs, for longer periods than statutorily permitted because there simply isn’t any social housing for them to move into. 

Homelessness provision is very often blind and inadequate to women’s needs. Only less than a third of local areas in England and Wales (57 out of 173) provide women-only accommodation that is not a DVA refuge. And the women-only aspect of these services matters when we consider the high proportion of homeless women who have experienced domestic abuse (for a third of rough-sleeping women, domestic abuse contributed to their homelessness). Evidence points to the recovering progress of many women who suffered traumatic violence unravelling after being put in temporary mixed-sex accommodation. This makes women vulnerable to sexual exploitation, such as sex for rent, or rough sleeping as alternatives to accessing these services.

In sum: women have a harder time affording a home of their own and so are more likely to be made homeless. Services are often inadequate and can create barriers to women recovering and progressing with their lives. 

The government has a huge part to play in fixing this broken housing system. It should invest in social housing and build truly affordable housing for everyone and regulate the private-rented market more closely. In the meantime, the local housing allowance rates that determine housing benefit that claimants receive in each area need to reflect actual rents, to avoid people facing rent shortfalls. Housing associations and local authorities should make sure that they provide accommodation, both emergency and permanent, that is women-only and that caters for women’s needs in terms of safety, family composition and purchasing power.

You can find out more in our report ‘A home of her own – Housing and women’.



Contact details:

Sara Reis

Research and policy officer

UK Women’s Budget Group

sara.reis@wbg.org.uk 

DULLING MY SHINE

DULLING MY SHINE

A Muslim marriage practice that occurs behind closed doors in some cultures today is one akin to an interview, but the couple are warranted the liberty of disagreeing to the match after meeting. I refer to it as an interview, as regularly marriage CVs are sent out detailing vital pieces of information such as height, hobbies and religious sect. In lieu of employment, is of course marriage.

IN LIMBO PROJECT

IN LIMBO PROJECT

A talk given at the Global Bradford event on Sunday 11th August 2019

Thank you for welcoming me to talk to you about the In Limbo Project
I am not here on my own: with me are 300 friends who contributed to our books and are just a small sample of the 5 million people in limbo on both sides of the channel. Add to that our approximately 15 million family members who are British citizens and you will find that almost a third of the British population has been silenced.

THE PHENOMENON OF POLLY HIGGINS

THE PHENOMENON OF POLLY HIGGINS

Polly’s extraordinary passage from Life to beyond the veil of Death contains the potent seed of a new narrative for Humanity.

When those of us who knew and loved her, heard of the serious health challenge she was facing, the outpouring of messages, offers for support, love and healing sent to her from all across the world was an energetic tsunami of loving intention.

CPHRC: The Limits Of Consent Report

FiLiA welcomes the CPHRC Report "The Limits of Consent" and we are heartened to see that the report approaches this from the perspective of human rights and public health.  It is vital that this topic is considered from the perspective of women's human rights globally and that the voices of survivors are centred.  

We particularly welcome an end to penalising those in prostitution, and are delighted to see the recommendation that criminal convictions for soliciting should not be disclosable. Our huge appreciation to Fiona Broadfoot for the work she has done in this area.  We endorse the view that consent cannot be bought and call upon the Government to follow other countries who have recognised the sex industry as a form of violence against women.  An end to sexual exploitation can only be presaged by an end to the demand which normalises commercialised consent, by focusing legal sanction against buyers. FiLiA looks forward to contributing to the meaningful positive change envisaged by this report. 

DISABLED WOMEN IN ENTERPRISE EFFECTIVELY SILENCED BY NEW GUIDANCE ON ACCESS TO WORK

DISABLED WOMEN IN ENTERPRISE EFFECTIVELY SILENCED BY NEW GUIDANCE ON ACCESS TO WORK

By Jacqueline Winstanley

It’s hard to imagine that in a year when we celebrate the many achievements of women, once again we see conflicting criteria within the Access to Work award. Contrary to its stated intent and potential to lift disabled women out of poverty, it is now acting in ways which serve to remove the right to Advocacy and or Third Party Consent to assist with the application process.

BLAME HER, THEN BUY HER: LIFE AFTER THE SEX TRADE

Blame her, then buy her: life after the sex trade
By Merly Åsbogård

Merly is a Swedish survivor of the sex trade and a campaigner for women’s rights under the Nordic model.
(English is not Merly’s first language and this text has been lightly edited with her blessing.)

The other day someone told me about a humanitarian aid strategy called “harm reduction”. It involves handing out condoms and lube instead of using the same money to shelter, clothe and feed women in prostitution. Usually the people pro “harm reduction” are also very much pro-sex work. They do their best to hide that behind the idea that prostitution is inevitable. “What else can we do?” they ask.

I told the woman who told me about the tactic that one of the most laughable things about it is the assumption that the prostituted woman is the one that ultimately have a choice on whether a condom gets used or not.

I was 14 years old when condoms were pressed in my hand. They remained in my hand, unused, while the buyer took what he wanted how he wanted through sheer force.

Some days I live in a haze where I can’t really remember much of anything. Not even what I did 2 minutes ago. Then I have days where I remember too much. How they smelled, pulled my hair, pressed my body down. Days like that I nearly can’t breathe. Every time someone asks me if the men buying me thought I was older I want to shout the truth at them. NO, they made sure of my young age! They knew what they wanted. They wanted a child. 

I lived in constant fear as a 14 year old. Fear of people knowing. Fear of dying. Fear of dying without anyone ever knowing.

A pimp who just wanted some excitement and money in her life coerced me into prostitution in Sweden as a 14 year old.

As I grew older I often wondered why I was eligible to end up in prostitution to begin with. I came to the conclusion that I was deceived, along with so many other women. From an early age I was sexualized. I was told to take responsibility for men’s irresponsible violent and aggressive sexual behaviour. I was told to do so because I knew better, they didn’t. I was told I was a whore because of an early sexual debut. My sense of self-worth was as damaged as my self-image.

The list goes on and on.

It would take me 16 years to fully leave prostitution. From being a child prostitute to a brothel in Copenhagen to a mom who sells herself to afford not to be poor…weird, I know. I started believing a life without prostitution was possible in 2015.

In my hometown the only way to be safe or at least safer than before was to be open with my background or life as a prostitute. When people tried to use my life against me it could be very violent. As a 17 year old I decided to try and minimize that fear and violence by being open about the prostitution when asked.

I used to say I was never just one thing. I lived what you would call a double life some of the time.

I was involved in politics, studied political science, was a part of the student body council, and was a mom. Two years ago all these lives melded into one when I started my Instagram account and came out nationally as an activist, radical feminist and former woman in prostitution. Today I hold lectures about my life and my feminist analysis of prostitution, power and men’s violence against women.

In 2019 the Swedish model and sex buyers’ law turned 20. It came into power the same year as I entered the sex trade and I spent 16 of them in the claws of prostitution.

A lot of good things can be said about the law. But hands on our hearts, the law is pretty far from perfect. We can change that. We will change that.

I’ve written a text that sums my feelings up:

Patriarchal grooming

Tell her she’s not as good as white people.

Tell her she’s not as good as men.

Tell her she’s not good enough as herself.

Mock her for being a woman.

Rape her for being a woman.

Blame her for being a woman.

Buy her for being a woman.

Then call prostitution “empowering” for women!

On the basis of that these women are allowed to price themselves and therefore

know their own value….


Merly will be joining us from Sweden to speak at the FiLiA conference.
She will be speaking on ‘The Most Beautiful Law That Was Never Implemented
Merly is on Instagram: @viskansviol

MERLY ASBOGARD - FINAL.PNG

THE BRAVE NEW WORLD OF ACADEMIA

THE BRAVE NEW WORLD OF ACADEMIA

By Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans 

In the current UK academy, the deployment of the ‘No Platform’ policy now seems to have migrated to a ‘No Journal Editor’ policy as evidenced by the pressure put on two academics last week to stand down from their editorial roles. In the first instance, Sarah Honeychurch, one of the editors of the journal Hybrid Pedagogy, received a formal email from Chris Friend, Assistant Professor of English at St. Leo University Florida, the journal’s managing editor. He “invited her to resign her position” because she had signed a letter to the Sunday Times.

THE NORDIC MODEL

THE NORDIC MODEL

By Heather Brunskell-Evans

In a ‘voice piece’ published on the 11th June in the Independent, Molly Smith suggests that the safety of “sex workers” can only be guaranteed through full decriminalisation of all laws relating to prostitution. She alleges that whenever there are laws criminalising prostitution, a misogynistic state and police brutality stigmatise and victimize women.

THE SYSTEM OF PROSTITUTION AND HUMAN RIGHTS LAW

THE SYSTEM OF PROSTITUTION AND HUMAN RIGHTS LAW

Here are two documents that may be of interest to those fighting against the System of Prostitution.

  1. THE LEGAL OBLIGATIONS ON UK STATE BODIES FOR DECISION-MAKING AND POLICY DEVELOPMENT ON PROSTITUTION
    By Louise Whitfield, Partner Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors

  2. PROSTITUTION UNDER INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW: AN ANALYSIS OF STATES’ OBLIGATIONS AND THE BEST WAYS TO IMPLEMENT THEM
    By CAP International

FAMILY COURTS: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

FAMILY COURTS: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Family courts: the elephant in the room
Anonymous Guest Blog

I used to wonder why mothers and their children who have experienced domestic violence seemed to have a horrendous experience when the family courts became involved.  I could not understand why perpetrators of abuse were getting contact based on their needs, and changes in residency were granted in favour of them. I could not understand how rights of contact were more important than the risk of continued violence, why mothers’ allegations were repeatedly ignored or why they fell silent when they entered the family court domain.

HAVING TO FIGHT FOR EVERY LITTLE THING: BEING A FEMINIST IN AFGHANISTAN

HAVING TO FIGHT FOR EVERY LITTLE THING: BEING A FEMINIST IN AFGHANISTAN

HAVING TO FIGHT FOR EVERY LITTLE THING: BEING A FEMINIST IN AFGHANISTAN

INTERVIEW with BATUL MORADI By Francine Sporenda

Batul Moradi was born in Iran from an Afghan family. She moved to Kabul in 2003. She is a journalist, poet, children’s magazines’ illustrator and has directed several movies. Married and a mother of two, she got divorced and had then to fight the accusations of adultery made by her ex-husband. She became famous in Afghanistan for having resorted successfully to DNA testing to disprove these accusations and having written a book, « Qharf » (Slander) about her ordeal. Her letter about the plight of Afghan women has been read at the last FiLiA conference in October 2018 by Kate Smurthwaite.

FEMINISM, SOMETHING OF OLD

FEMINISM, SOMETHING OF OLD

FEMINISM, SOMETHING OF OLD 
By Diana Santiago, The Kujieleza Wall

Every year, when the world celebrates a woman, Rosa comes to mind.

Rosa was my mother’s granny, my great grandmother. All her years, she lived in Yivu, a tiny village in Maracha district in the West Nile Region of Uganda.

Rosa was the truest embodiment of a phenomenal woman.

Yours in Struggle: how secondwave feminist periodicals mediated internal conflict and formed political theory

Yours in Struggle: how secondwave feminist periodicals mediated internal conflict and formed political theory

Yours in Struggle: how secondwave feminist periodicals mediated internal conflict and formed political theory

Secondwave feminist periodicals: not to be underestimated

 By Bec Wonders

Women’s publishing experienced an unprecedented moment between the late 1960s and early 1990s in the U.K., the U.S., Canada, France and notable examples in India. Women’s bookstores, publishers, periodicals, distributors, editors and printers acted as a foundational mechanism for feminist theory to circulate and develop. During the secondwave of feminism, periodicals in particular made up the mortar which glued together different strands of thought and organizations, building the irregular but impressive superstructure of the women's liberation movement. It is through communication in secondwave feminist periodicals that we get a glimpse into the inner workings of the movement. With the advantage of being able to look back, we have a duty as feminists today to engage with these highly laboured documents.