Women and Housing, how the Gender Pay Gap and Gender Pension Gap affects housing for women.

Glasgow rent strike, 1915

In 1983,9.8% of single women took out mortgages against the view that the mortgage world is a man’s world. In 2017,62% of first time buyers were women compared to 38% of men.
The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 finally outlawed discrimination against women seeking to obtain goods,facilities or services,including loans or credit.
Until then women seeking a mortgage were asked for male guarantors but even with the act women were still viewed as a financial risk until the 1980’s when the government urged banks to lend more to stimulate growth leading to a lending boom which some women could tap into if they had the money and a decent salary.
Gender discrimination in the 1960’s and 70’s still has ramifications for today’s older women from that generation in the choice of homes that they can live in. Women not able to buy their own homes entered the social or private rental sector. Those entering the private sector before the 1984 Rent Act became protected tenants their tenancies being known as secure tenancies. More older women than men are in these tenancies today because of earlier discrimination and also life expectancy.
The Office of National Statistics puts UK life expectancy at 79.4yrs for men and 83.1 yrs for women however there are concerns that life expectancy is slowing down in the UK going against the centuries long trend for steady growth. Despite the fact that more women today are seeking mortgages there is a gap in mortgage affordability between men and women due to the gap in their average salary ie A Gender Gap in salary leads to a Gender Gap in Home Ownership.
The average affordability for men is 65% of the average house price compared to female home byers of 53%. Female affordability is lowered in all areas of housing from a detached house to a flat. Housing owned by single women is valued at 10% less than a man’s and will appreciate 16% less because of this. The gender pay gap In 20017 was 9.1% for full time workers or 18.4% for all staff. In 1970 the gender pay gap was 45% thus eliminating many women from obtaining mortgages as well as the discrimination in borrowing even if they had sufficient money. The gender pay gap reduces women’s lifetime earnings,affects their pensions,their quality of life and the type of housing they live in. This is one of the significant causes of poverty in later life for women. The gender pay gap and the gender pension gap has had a serious affect on women pensioners wherever they live.
The many factors working to prevent women earning as much as men has led women to end up with nearly half of the occupational pensions as men by the age of 50.Women age 50 who want to match male counterparts at retirement would need to pay an extra of £300/month.
Women pensioners owning their own homes find increasing hardship in paying for repairs,fuel and other necessary outgoings including outstanding mortgage payments. This is particularly hard for women living only on the State Pension and the removal of the “Support for Mortgage Interest” in April this year will add further to their struggle to repay outstanding mortgages. Several hundred thousand women born in the 1950s,known as the WASPI women,have had their retirement plans shattered because of the equalisation of the SPA for men and women to 65 in November 2018.These women caught in the pension age trap are £40,000 out of pocket,many not being able to pay their mortgages,having to sell their homes,leading to many of them seeking housing through the social and private renting market.
The growing divorce rates in the over 60s is also a cause for concern for women as they are entering retirement. Their pensions will depend more than previous generations in what they have put in. Many women have found themselves in private rented accommodation in assured shorthold tenancies,ASH, with a security of tenure for only 6 months. In London the average private rent is £300/week double the figure of £153/wk for the rest of the UK.
The rent for social renters is approximately 28% of household income and about 35% + for those renting privately taking a grip on household income. The decline of the social housing sector has led to an increase in the private rental market which has doubled in size since 2004 with home ownership dropping to it’s lowest level since 1985. 2017 saw the increase in the number of people working over 70,particularly women.
Pensions experts say that because of gaps in NI contributions,career breaks to raise children and to look after the elderly,women in particular have low levels of savings and some are being forced to work longer to supplement meagre pensions. One in four people retiring this year will still have mortgage or other debts to pay off and will owe on average about £24,000.People retiring in debt is the highest since 2011.
The situation for the younger generation of women is now critical particularly those on low incomes,austerity associated reductions in income,zero-hour contracts,part-time work,precarious employment,childcare and other disadvantages have meant that for many of these women ,enrolment onto the workplace scheme is impossible leaving them without a pension in retirement..
The recent developments in a shift from public to private pensions could aggravate the problem for women and further widen the gender gap in pensions. In countries where there is more emphasis on workplace pensions than state pensions the gender gap is wider.
Women on low incomes struggle to meet rent payments and those on housing benefit find it difficult to meet the shortfall between this and their rent. Unless there is an increase in building social housing the private sector will continue to grow and women of all ages will be dependent on this type of housing for their homes.
ASH tenancies provide no long term security for the tenant who can be evicted after 6 months.Living with insecurity cannot be conducive to the quality of life needed for pensioners and for people with young families.The private rental sector needs to be controlled,landlords registered and a rent cap introduced. Assured tenancies should be abolished and a proper security of tenure introduced.

Meg McDonald