Women are being priced out of England’s private rental sector

A woman pushes a pram. Image: Getty.

Amanda*, a young mum living in the Midlands where rent absorbs 42 per cent of a woman’s income, was left with nowhere to live after her landlord sold her home and she lost her job. Having been declared homeless two days before her birthday, a now pregnant Amanda and her daughter were housed in a single room without cooking facilities. “They put me in temporary accommodation for 11 months,” she says.

Her story is horrifying – and horrifyingly common. A major report published by the Women’s Budget Group has exposed how, in every region across England, a woman on the median income can no longer afford to rent her own home. For men on the higher men’s median income, private rents are only unaffordable in London and the South East.

The authors compared the proportion of median earnings absorbed by median private rents in every English region in 2018. Housing is considered unaffordable when it consumes above one third of a household’s income.

In the North East, where median private rents are lowest, rent absorbs 34 per cent of a woman’s income, compared to 22 per cent of men’s. In the South West, the region with the highest private rents outside the East/South East, rent absorbs 48 per cent of a woman’s income. This is compared to 35 per cent for men. London is unaffordable to both sexes, absorbing 77 per cent of women’s income and 60 per cent of men’s. 

“I didn’t receive any money,” Amanda explains, “because I was told I wasn’t eligible for Universal Credit. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I was living on £20 a week. I couldn’t even go to the food bank as there was nothing in our accommodation to cook with. We were living off fast food, or what friends could give us. We were housed three bus rides from my daughter’s school.”

Women are trapped in a perfect storm of housing unaffordability. They are more likely to be poorer than men, with the gender pay gap currently at 17.9 per cent. This in turn makes women more dependent on benefits, and therefore disproportionately impacted by recent welfare reforms. The benefit cap in particular, where housing is the first benefit to be cut once the threshold is met, has made it even harder for women to rent a home for themselves and their family. 


Women also tend to have caring responsibilities, and are more likely to head up single parent families. This is a further contributor to the gender housing gap. A mum like Amanda needs at least two bedrooms for her growing family. This is out of reach for a single woman earning the median wage, let alone a mother surviving on benefits or low pay. 

While the report recognises that most people rent as a couple, the authors argue that housing unaffordability traps women in unhappy relationships, and leaves women vulnerable to unequal power dynamics within the home. For women in violent homes, the cost of private rents is pushing them to make an impossible choice: a roof over their head or abuse – even death. With 1 in 5 women turned away from refuges due to lack of space, the authors report that women are staying in violent relationships due to financial pressures. 

A spokesperson from the Department of Communities & Local Government said the government “wants a housing market that works for all and we are making rented housing more affordable. In April we changed the law to protect renters right now by capping tenancy deposits and banning unfair letting agency fees.” 

They added that they’re “committed to increasing the supply of social housing” with plans to “deliver 250,000 new affordable homes of a wide range of tenures, including social rent” by 2022. However, the Women’s Budget Group wants the government to go further, by building more social housing and scrapping the benefit cap. 

After nearly a year in temporary accommodation, Amanda has finally won an appeal to access Universal Credit and has been rehomed. She now lives in a two bedroom apartment with her baby son and her daughter.

“People who have everything, they don’t realise what others go through,” Amanda said. “I had always worked and then things happen that change your life completely. I want to see change that focuses more on mothers and children – to focus on where children are going to live and how they’re going to live.” 

Names have been changed to protect identity.

 
 
 
 

TfL published some tables about Tube Capacity and they are amazing

Budge up. Image: Getty.

Have you ever wondered just how busy the tube is as you’re sardined in every morning? Or which the quietest tube line is in the depths of night?

Well it turns out that Transport for London (TfL) holds this data and quietly released it a few weeks ago in response to a written question to Sadiq Khan from Conservative London Assembly member Tony Devenish. He asked about the capacity on the tube and TfL decided to publish the data it has in the form of three excellent tables which I’m sure the audience of CityMetric will be poring over for some time.

So, most of this won’t be a surprise to many of you veteran commuters: trains being at or over capacity in the morning peak, busy again in the evening peak with a solid use through the rest of the day. However, the data does throw up some interesting nuggets of information about how busy the tube actually is.

Click to expand. Source: TfL.

One of the most surprising aspects is how busy the tube remains throughout the day. The Central Line in particular is at 66 per cent capacity from the moment the first train runs and doesn’t dip below 35 per cent throughout the rest of the day, even those late-night services past midnight. Indeed, all of the deep level lines are pretty well used all day.

In the morning peak between 8-9am, the 130 per cent capacity on the Northern Line will be a surprise to nobody, but that is nevertheless very high. The note underneath states that this was calculated this on the basis of standing at a density of 4 people per square metre, so 130 per cent is having 5 and a bit people in just a square metre, again something many of us are familiar with. The Central, Jubilee and Victoria Lines are also above 100 per cent, but it’s interesting to note the jump from 15 per cent to 82 per cent on the Waterloo & City (W&C) Line from 6-8am.

Compare that with just how quiet the Metropolitan and W&C are throughout the day and late at night. A grand total of no one uses the W&C before 6am (it isn’t open), with only 4 per cent using it after midnight. The other sub-surface lines are also relatively quiet after 9pm.

The other trend is the slight increase in use after 10pm on the Bakerloo, Central and Piccadilly Lines. This happens after the commuters go home by 8pm, so the usage dips before bouncing back. It is most likely due to more people making their way home after their evenings out in central London, but an interesting point.

Click to expand. Source: TfL.

The second table shows when capacity is over 50 per cent. Again, the Central Line is the busiest with 10 hours a day over half capacity, including before 6am, and the Northern remains busy until 9pm on a typical weekday.

However, the table shows the tube is only more than half full just 35 per cent of the time – something to remember when you’re crammed in at 8:34am. It would be interesting to see if the increase in flexible working has had an impact in recent years. And if you do work flexibly, you should get a quieter commute the earlier or later you head in – just avoid 8-9am.

Click to expand. Source: TfL.

The third table shows if all of the seats are taken on the tube. Amazingly they are all taken 71 per cent of the time, and are all taken all day on the Central, Jubilee and Victoria Lines. Again, the Metropolitan is your best bet for a seat, with seats being available for 14 hours a day. The W&C offers a seat for that short journey for 13 hours a day.


How might we expect these tables to change in the next few years? Well TfL recently announced it was extending the morning and evening peaks on the Victoria Line to three hours, with a train every 100 seconds, so those figures could drop. Also, the Four Lines Modernisation programme will see increased service on the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines from 2023, so again TfL will be hoping for those numbers to drop as more trains become available. It will also be interesting to see this table once the Elizabeth Line Crossrail opens.

Thinking further ahead, when the New Tube for London rolling stock upgrade progamme finally arrives from the middle of the next decade onwards, it’ll mean more trains on the Piccadilly and Central Lines initially, followed by the Bakerloo (which could be extended) and W&C. But with population growth expected to continue in London, will it make much of a difference to these tables? Probably not.

Now, to find out what this table would look like for Night Tube, Overground, DLR and Trams…

James Potts tweets @JamesPotts.