Illustration: A young woman saving for an apartment (Photo: ShutterStock)
What is the connection between the housing crisis and gender inequality? The Adva Center is publishing today (Wednesday) a new report presenting an overview of the economic situation and the extent to which women can obtain an owned and rented apartment, with reference to their place of residence and various life situations.
Despite the centrality of the housing crisis in the public discourse, and despite the fact that quite a few studies have been written about women, and specifically about single mothers in public housing, to date no such report has been written in Israel examining the housing crisis as a gender issue and the unique implications of housing policy on women in general and on women from specific population groups in particular.
The report, written by Dr. Yael Hasson, Yaron Hoffman-Dishon and Tehila Sharabi, and published in collaboration with the Ebert-Israel Foundation, presents the specific implications of the housing crisis for women, and the unique challenges faced by women in the housing field, based on adaptations by the Adva Center for Statistical Data of the Central Bureau of Statistics, the National Insurance Institute, and the Ministry of Construction and Housing, as well as an analysis of policy documents, Literature review, conversations with officials, and qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with public housing applicants receiving rental assistance.
Data from the report: Which city has the largest gap?
As of 2019, while men needed 113 salaries to buy an average apartment, women needed 166 salaries – a gap of 53 salaries, almost 4.5 years of additional work.
Surprisingly, on the one hand, due to the fact that salaries in Tel Aviv are significantly higher than the average in the rest of the country, and not surprising on the other hand, due to housing prices in the city itself, and in the Tel Aviv district in general, the gender gap in housing affordability is the highest in the Tel Aviv district – a gap of 66 salaries. The lowest gap was recorded, of course, in the periphery, in the northern and southern districts.
In addition, in the North, Haifa and South districts, men's average wages enable them to finance an average mortgage independently, as individuals. In contrast, women earning an average wage cannot independently finance a mortgage to purchase an average apartment in any district.
Regarding rent, according to the study, the average wage of men in each district is sufficient to afford rent that does not exceed 30% of income in most districts in Israel, except Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. On the other hand, the average wage of women in each district makes it impossible to rent an apartment alone at a price that does not exceed 30% of the income in any of Israel's districts.
Housing challenges among single mothers
Single mothers of children up to age 17 are characterized by a high rate of rental housing and a very low rate of owned housing.
In 2021, about 43% of single mothers lived in private rentals, compared to about 24% of married couples and about 30% of single fathers. About 48% of single mothers lived in owned apartments, compared to 72% of married couples and 61% of single fathers.
Almost a quarter of single-parent families (23%) lived in poverty in 2021. And about a third of them suffered from food insecurity (34%). Despite these high rates, most single mothers living in poverty are not entitled to public housing.
According to data from the Ministry of Construction and Housing, in 2017, 62% of public housing residents were women – 75% of them were single women or single mothers, and the rest were women who lived with spouses. In 2021, the share of single-parent families living in public housing was almost three times higher than the corresponding rate among all families with children.
About 3% of all single mothers lived in public housing in 5. Higher rates were recorded among single mothers from the former Soviet Union (about 2021%), Mizrahi mothers (about 9%), and Ethiopian women (about 8.7%).
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Women victims of violence are forced to continue living at home
It is important to note that domestic violence is not a criterion for eligibility for public housing;
Therefore, women who suffer from domestic violence also face a unique challenge in the field of housing, and in the absence of alternatives, are sometimes forced to continue living in a home that has become a dangerous place.
Rent assistance is provided to victims of violence who have stayed in a shelter (or are entitled to asylum) for a period of up to 3 years. The amount decreases over the years: a woman with children is entitled to NIS 1,370 a month in the first year and NIS 883 in the third year.
Despite the increase in rental prices, since 2002 the aid amounts have hardly been updated. In relation to private rental prices, the share of assistance in the first year of eligibility declined from 46% of the average monthly rent in 2002 to 36% in 2012, and continued to decline to 33% in 2022.
And what is the government doing about it? A Gender Perspective on Government Policy for Housing Assistance
In recent years, rental assistance has become the state's main assistance track for households – a track that is not sufficiently budgeted, the report claims, and does not fulfill its goal of helping to obtain a stable roof.
According to data from the Ministry of Construction and Housing, in 2017, of the approximately 165,62 recipients of rental assistance, 5.38% were women: 13% were single, <>% were single mothers, and the rest received the assistance as part of a couple.
The current rental assistance policy abandons tenants to the private market and raises many difficulties in dealing with landlords, living in the shadow of the risk of eviction, frequent moves between apartments, and more.
The report also claims that in recent decades, the Israeli government has abandoned public housing, reducing it by selling public apartments without investing in building new apartments. In light of this, for single mothers, the difficulty in obtaining housing is even greater – leading some to homelessness. Thus, both among the homeless and among public housing residents and those waiting, the representation of single mothers exceeds their share of the population.
Illustration: Domestic violence is not a criterion for eligibility for public housing (Photo: ShutterStock)
Women waiting for public housing find themselves in a cycle of poverty from which they find it difficult to get out;
While their spending on housing increases without the amount of aid being updated, they are struggling to increase their incomes. Their entitlement to public housing depends, among other things, on receiving income support – an allowance that will be denied to them if their salary rises above the threshold set by law, which often leaves them below the poverty line.
Being eligible for public housing allows them to receive an increased rent assistance grant, but it also depends on income criteria.
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