Women’s economic and other inequality creates disadvantage in accessing housing, including housing insecurity and homelessness. Women’s economic disadvantage and poverty result from multiple lifetime factors, including gaps in pay, wealth and superannuation and women’s greater responsibility for caring for children and other family members. In addition, women’s experiences of domestic and other gendered violence including the impacts of trauma, injury, dislocation, financial abuse and disproportionate loss of wealth upon separation cause immediate and long-term economic and other disadvantage.

Women’s disadvantage occurs in the context of an Australian and NSW housing market characterised by a lack of affordable rental housing, together with tightly targeted social housing with long waiting lists. This has led to the emergence of a cohort of people on low incomes who are in precarious housing situations, for whom an adverse event may trigger homelessness. This context impacts on both women whose needs other than housing are low, and on women with more complex needs.

Domestic violence is a major reason for women’s homelessness, as many women experiencing violence make the momentous decision to leave their homes, often with children, for their safety. In recent years some programs have been developed for women to stay at home where it is possible and safe to do so. While some women are able to stay at home with support and protection, many are unable to do so because of reasons including risk, fear, financial issues and problems with enforcement of protection orders.

Other women at particular risk of housing instability and homelessness include women in a range of situations who are on low incomes and/or experience other disadvantage, such as older single women, single mothers and their children, women with disabilities, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander women and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women. There is a need to ensure that suitable housing is available for the full range of diverse groups of women and children and that if women do experience domestic violence and/or homelessness, that services are appropriately specialised, competent, accessible, culturally appropriate and safe.

June 2019, 'Social Housing Critical to Women's Safety says WELmedia statement about the findings of recent research for the Australian Housing and Research Institute on Social housing legal responses to crime and anti-social behaviour: impacts on vulnerable families

May 2019, Research paper by WEL NSW Executive member Dr Jane Bullen for the Mercy FoundationDidn’t feel heard, didn’t think I had a voice, didn’t feel safe: Gender responsive strategies for assisting women experiencing long-term and recurrent homelessness.

This research project aims to identify and assess gender-responsive service strategies and plans for assisting women who have experienced long-term and recurrent homelessness, and monitoring these responses.

Some of the identified strategies for services to better meet women’s needs are:

  • A strong service philosophy that is human-centred, gender responsive, flexible, respectful, strengths based and that supports self determination.
  • Services are safe, trauma informed and home-like
  • Specialist or targeted services for women with specific needs.

The paper is available HERE.

WEL Priorities 2019 - 2022

1. A gender-responsive national housing policy that addresses the factors affecting women’s housing outcomes and includes actions and measurable targets.

2. An end to negative gearing to prevent taxes being used to help property investors outbid home buyers.

3. Additional social and affordable housing including additional housing configured and targeted to women in housing need in each State/Territory including women and children fleeing domestic violence, single women, single older women, single mothers and women with disabilities. Affordable housing should be in close proximity to concentrations of employment opportunity for women. WEL supports the ‘Everybody’s Home Campaign’ target of 500,000 new social and affordable homes.

4. Increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 30% or $20 a week.

5. Adequate and sustainable funding to meet demand for homelessness services while ensuring that that funding goes to services that are appropriately specialised, competent, accessible culturally appropriate and safe for the full range of diverse groups of women and children who need them.

6. A program of $1 billion over 5 years matched dollar for dollar by state and territory governments that ensures the continuation and enhancement of Commonwealth/State funding of specialist women’s refuges and other front-line services dealing with violence against women as set out in Priority 1.

7. Measures to address housing adequacy for older women including for programs based on delivering care to women in their own homes, and for women currently at retirement age who have not had the opportunity to accumulate superannuation due to lower lifetime earnings, and caring duties with the imposition this placed on superannuation contributions.

(from WEL's 2019 Federal Election Priorities document and pre-election Scorecard)