What is the gender housing gap?

Time it takes to get on to the property ladder differs depending on whether you’re male or female

Hand holding keys to a home
It takes women 3.7 years longer than their male counterparts to purchase a property of the same price
(Image credit: Westend61/Getty Images)

Most people have heard of the gender pay gap but far less attention is given to the gender housing gap, despite it being a growing issue affecting both renters and prospective homeowners.

Research by the property platform Boomin published earlier this year found there to be a gender house price affordability gap of 3.7 years across the UK. In other words it takes women “on average 3.7 years longer to get on the property ladder than their male counterparts”, explained The Times.

The income gap

Boomin’s research compared average house prices based on current market values with the average gross annual income of male homebuyers (£38,061) and female homebuyers (£27,120) in the UK.

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The study found that the average British male requires 7.3 times their annual salary to cover the current average property price of £278,120, whereas the average British female requires 11.1 times her average annual income for the same property cost.

The researchers concluded that it takes the average British woman almost four years (3.7 years) longer than her male homebuying counterpart to earn enough to purchase a property of the same price.

Gap differs across the UK

The study found the gender housing gap differs across the country and is particularly stark in the capital. The London borough of Kensington and Chelsea was revealed to be the worst area of the UK property market to be a woman, with a gender house price affordability gap of 23.9 years.

Rother in East Sussex, Mole Valley in Surrey and Rutland in the East Midlands were all in the four worst places in the UK to be a female homebuyer.

Inverclyde, near Glasgow, where the average house price is £123,884, has the smallest gap: it would take a woman just half a year longer to purchase an averagely priced house in this area than her male counterpart.

Issue for renters too

Studies show that the gender housing gap exists in the rental sector too, with women generally spending a higher proportion of their salaries on housing costs than men.

In January, the property website Spareroom.com surveyed 11,130 users to understand how much of their income they were spending on rent. The study found that “almost one in five women (19.5%) spend more than half of their take home pay on rent, compared to 14.4% of men”, reported Vicky Spratt, the i news site’s housing correspondent.

And with the average monthly price of rent in the UK increasing “by 2% in the 12 months to January 2022, compared to 1.8% the previous year”, this gender housing gap looks likely to widen even further.

“Renting, never mind buying a home, is unattainable for many women, particularly disabled women or women of colour, who have even lower average earnings,” Dr Sara Reis, deputy director and head of research at the Women’s Budget Group, told Spratt.

Particularly affects young women

“Unsurprisingly”, the research by SpareRoom also revealed that “almost 60% of the women struggling the most are in their 20s”, said Spratt in a piece for Refinery29.

“This final point is crucial,” she added. Your 20s are supposed to be when “you figure out your friendships, your career and your romantic relationships”, but “what happens to your financial wellbeing during these developmental years is just as significant”.

And this problem is not limited to the UK property market. A study by the US real estate search engine Zillow in March found that 18% of America’s housing market is affordable to men but out of reach to women due to the US gender pay gap.

“Owning a home represents the dominant form of wealth building for most Americans,” said Zillow economist Nicole Bachaud in an article published on Yahoo Finance. “Not only are women starting from behind, but they’re falling even further behind with each passing day as homes build equity.”

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