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New Report: California Housing Costs Impose Greater Burden On Women, Especially Black Women

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(SACRAMENTO, CA) – The Gender Equity Policy Institute (GEPI) released a new report, Gender and Housing in California, which reveals women disproportionately struggle with housing costs in California – particularly Black and Latina women, single mothers, and elderly women who live alone.

“California sorely needs gender-responsive housing policies because the faces of greatest need in our affordability crisis belong to women of color. As state lawmakers take their final votes on important housing bills this month, women are counting on them the most for a breakthrough,” said Nancy L. Cohen, President of the Gender Equity Policy Institute.

“Women continue to earn less than men and housing costs in California are among the nation’s highest. We knew that. Until now, we didn’t know how severely this gap translates into housing burdens.”

“Women can’t build lives in California without being able to afford a roof over their head. Our affordable housing crisis is squeezing women the most, putting many of us on the edge of financial stability,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), Chair of the California State Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development and author of AB 2011, which would accelerate affordable housing development. “This report is a rallying cry for action. Unless lawmakers act on reforms now to unlock a wave of new affordable housing construction and access, we now know in shocking detail which women will be left behind.”

Developed at the request of Assemblymember Wicks, the report shows women are more likely to be rent burdened and severely rent burdened – meaning housing costs total at least 30% or 50% of their income, respectively. Key findings include:

  • 64% of women-led households are rent burdened and they are twice as likely to be severely rent burdened
  • 59% of Black women and 52% of Latina women are rent burdened, compared with less than half of white and Asian women
  • 73% of single mothers are rent burdened, with small differences by race and ethnicity, but white and Latina single mothers nearly twice as likely as white and Latino single fathers to be severely rent burdened
  • A third of elderly Black and Latina women living alone have an income below the federal poverty line.

Among women-led homeowner households, 40% are cost burdened – paying more than 30% of their income toward housing costs. They are nearly 2.4 times as likely as jointly-led

homeowner households to be severely cost burdened – paying more than 50% of their income toward homeownership costs.

“The lack of affordable housing means caregivers like me must have roommates or be homeless,” said Brenda Garner, who works as an in-home care provider in Sacramento and lives with her daughter and two grandchildren. “I get emotional because I can’t see the fruits of my labor. While caring for people in their homes, I see different visions of how I want to live but I can’t get there. I can’t afford a home for myself. Our leaders must move their feet and not sit in their seats.”

Among other recommendations in the report, GEPI urges integrating a gender lens in policies to confront the lack of affordable housing, housing insecurity and homelessness challenges, encourage affordable housing development in dense urban areas, and dedicate increased funding to solving the affordability crisis.


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