3335 W St Germain St.
Suite 108
St. Cloud, MN 56301

(320) 656-8890

Women’s Barriers to Affordable Homeownership

Mar 27, 2024

March is Women’s History Month, and in honor of that, we want to raise awareness of the unique struggles women face in accessing safe, decent, and affordable housing. 

 

“The right to adequate housing is a central component of women’s right to equality under international human rights law.” – United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner 

 

There are many factors contributing to women’s lack of access to affordable housing. One of the biggest barriers is the wage gap. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2022, on average, women made 82 cents for every dollar made by a man. Therefore, women already start at a disadvantage when it comes to affordable housing. 

This struggle is especially harsh for women of color, who not only experience discrimination based on their gender but also based on their race. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women of color, especially those with children, experience higher rates of poverty and economic insecurity than men.  

In addition, women of color make even less than white women. In Minnesota, Black women make 62 cents for every dollar a man makes, and Latina women make 57 cents. In an entire lifetime, women in Minnesota, regardless of race, lose an average of over $480,000 of lifetime earnings due to the wage gap according to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. 

Another barrier is socioeconomic status. Women living at lower socioeconomic levels are at a higher risk of losing their housing due to eviction. Single mothers, as the primary breadwinners and caregivers of their families, face challenges that severely limit their ability to access and maintain affordable housing. 

Of the 7.6 million single-mother households in the United States, 2/3 live in rental housing and 33.5% live below the federal poverty line. This makes things like rent and utility payments difficult to afford. The lack of tenant protections available to these women contribute to higher rates of eviction, which not only leave them homeless, but their children as well. Once evicted, low-income women will find it even harder to find affordable housing, as a prior eviction record gives landlords a legal reason to deny housing to potential tenants. 

Why does this matter? 

The importance of safe, decent, and affordable housing cannot be overstated. Affordable housing is foundational to many aspects of life, including economic stability, generational wealth, food security, and even health and educational performance. 

High housing costs quickly deplete a person’s disposable income, especially when that person is a woman who already makes, on average, 18% less than their male counterparts. Access to affordable housing means more of the household income can go towards savings and other essential goods and services like child care, health care, and food.  

 

So, what can be done to fix this? 

We need to expand the housing and rental assistance programs available to low-income households. Currently, 75% of households utilizing HUD rental assistance programs are women-led. With increased and expanded federal affordable housing programs, families are able to access safe, decent, and affordable homes and the success that comes with it (stable employment, better school performance, improved health).  

To increase equitable housing opportunities, we need to advocate for policy changes and center the solutions around those who are most impacted by housing insecurity. While most of these changes will need to take place at a federal level, we can make a difference by pushing our representatives to promote affordable housing as a priority. 

 

Sources: 

“The Roots of Discriminatory Housing Policy: Moving Toward Gender Justice in Our Economy,” National Women’s Law Center. https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Housing-Paper-Accessible-FINAL-1.pdf 

“Why Housing Is a Gender Justice Issue,” National Women’s Law Center. https://nwlc.org/why-housing-is-a-gender-justice-issue/ 

“The Enduring Grip of the Gender Pay Gap,” Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2023/03/01/the-enduring-grip-of-the-gender-pay-gap/ 

“Gender Equity Advocates are Housing Advocates,” Opportunity Starts at Home. https://www.opportunityhome.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Gender-Equity-Advocates.pdf 

“Women and the right to adequate housing,” United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. https://www.ohchr.org/en/special-procedures/sr-housing/women-and-right-adequate-housing 

“New Status of Women & Girls+ in Minnesota Shows Barriers & Opportunities for Equity,” Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. https://www.wfmn.org/press/2024-status-of-women-girls-in-minnesota/ 

“The Solution,” National Low Income Housing Coalition. https://nlihc.org/explore-issues/why-we-care/solution 

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3335 W St Germain St.
Suite 108
St. Cloud, MN 56301

(320) 656-8890

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