Women are experiencing disadvantage at a greater rate than men in the nation’s capital, a new study has found, with affordable housing at the forefront of the problem.
The study found the lack of affordable rental housing in the private market had a disproportionate impact on women in the ACT, leading to a domino effect that impacted many other aspects of their lives.
Two-and-a-half times more women than men were in low-income sole parent households, and that cohort was particularly at risk, report author and Women’s Centre for Health Matters deputy chief executive Emma Davidson said.
She said the scale of the issue was staggering.
“That shows there is a gendered issue in terms of sole parents who have caring responsibilities and that has an impact on their ability to earn income,” Ms Davidson said.
“There is nowhere that a woman in that situation in Canberra, that a person in that situation, can afford rent. There is not a single place, like literally nowhere,” Ms Davidson said.
She said on top of that, there was not enough public housing to meet demand.
“Women are already often in situations where they are working in lower paid industries, in a position where they already finding it hard to earn a good income.
“To have caring responsibilities on top of that, it showed me how important it is to provide services to women in these situations.”
Location was one area where some women compromised on their housing choices to avoid homelessness, putting them at a disadvantage in access to employment opportunities, education, health and other services, or social networks, the report said.
However, the suburbs with the highest proportion of women on low incomes were predominantly those established in 1986 or earlier.
Older homes have lower energy efficiency ratings and higher maintenance costs.
“For women on low incomes, this means they are more likely to be living in a property that costs more to heat in winter or cool in summer, and they may need to spend money on repairs more often or put in requests to their landlord for repairs,” the report stated.
“Most suburbs with a high proportion of women who are sole parents in low income households are not within walking distance from a town centre.”
The Women’s Centre for Health Matters study also found that disadvantage was not evenly dispersed in the nation’s capital, with pockets of hidden disadvantage where women are overrepresented.
A 2017 National Centre for Economic Modelling report found there are more than 37,000 people in Canberra living in a low-income household, representing 11 per cent of the total population of Canberra.
Ms Davidson said more support was needed for women in these situations.
“If we could alleviate the housing affordability problem for these women, what little income they do have they would have more choice about what to do with it.
“But at the moment, while so much of their income is going to the cost of housing that they have no control over, they're being put in a more difficult position than they already were.”
The report, titled Hidden disadvantage among women in the ACT, will be launched on Monday.