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UK Policy Briefing

Housing and Gender: Briefing for a new government

This briefing provides a gender analysis of the housing situation and housing policy in the UK.

Rebecca Tunstall and Angela Barca


  • Women’s housing situation differs from that of men, and is generally worse, in terms of affordability, ownership, safety and overcrowding.
  • Housing is a known public health issue. Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, poor housing cost the NHS upwards of £1.4bn per year. Housing inequalities contributed to inequalities in Covid infections and deaths.
  • Private renters spend 32% of their income on rent on average. Partly due to the gender pay gap, there is a distinctly gendered difference; average rents in England use up 36% of a woman’s median earnings and only 26% of men’s. The average cost of renting a two-bedroom property in England swallows 40% of women’s earnings and 28% of men’s. In London it is 62% of women’s earnings and 49% of men’s.
  • In terms of home ownership, the median home in England costs over 11 times women’s median wages (eight times for men).
  • Successive initiatives to support home buyers, such as the Help to Buy scheme, have benefitted the relatively privileged: in March 2021 average household income for those using the Help to Buy scheme was £63,229.
  • The treatment of housing assets, rental income, and imputed rents (the flow of benefits homeowners get from their homes) in the taxation system is generous, will tend to favour men over women, and has been an overlooked option for fiscal and housing policy goals given tight budgets.
  • Although men are the vast majority of those sleeping rough (84%), women are the majority of people statutorily homeless (60%) and are more likely to experience hidden homeless.
  • Lone mothers make up two-thirds of homeless families with children (they are just one quarter of all families with children).
  • Housing will be a key site of working towards an environmentally sustainable economy. Greenhouse gas emissions from housing contribute 22% to the UK’s carbon footprint; 15% comes from heating and hot water.


  • Prioritise the building of more social housing and constrain the Right to Buy to preserve stock in high-demand areas: Social housing stock has decreased markedly in recent years. The government must ensure there is enough affordable housing for those in need.
  • Restore the link between LHA and actual rental prices by raising LHA to the 50th percentile and keeping it there, to ensure the most vulnerable are protected.
  • Revive the Renter’s Reform Bill and improve private renter’s rights and security.
  • Increase the number of women’s refuges and prioritise funding for specialist services.
  • Housing should be prioritised as a right rather than a financial asset in accordance with recent UN guidelines.