Safe and affordable housing is a fundamental human right that is inextricably tied to a person’s economic outcomes, educational opportunities, and mental and physical health. Research demonstrates that women, especially women of color, face additional barriers to securing stable housing. To achieve gender and racial equity in our local communities and across Nebraska, advocating for housing justice is a core focus of the Women’s Fund’s policy efforts.
- Housing justice ensures that safe, accessible and affordable housing is available to everyone.
- Affordable housing means that people pay no more than 30% of their gross income on rent and utilities.
- Safe housing means housing meets required standards of habitability and provides a person with security and stability.
How does Housing Instability Impact Economic Security?
Economic security is critical to securing safe and accessible housing. For women, especially women of color, gender and racial wage gaps make it more difficult to find and maintain housing without spending most of their income on housing expenses. Additionally, single-parent households, the majority of which are led by women, must make the earnings of a single person stretch to account for other expenses in addition to housing, placing a potential strain on finances. Low-income women are particularly vulnerable to housing instability because of these factors.
- Women make 78.5 cents for every dollar a man makes in Nebraska.
- In Nebraska, 32.1% of single mothers live in poverty.
- In December 2021, 30.9% of Black women and 19.6% of Hispanic women were behind on rent compared to 8.6% of white men.
Likewise, housing stability is essential to maintaining economic security and creating opportunities for increased economic security. Evictions and foreclosures can result in additional expenses–court fees, representation for legal proceedings and any other expenses the landlord demands, as well as the cost of finding new housing and relocation expenses. A record of eviction or foreclosure can also threaten future housing opportunities. On top of these barriers, the loss of a place to call home is devastating and can impact someone’s ability to maintain employment. Because these two issues go hand in hand, housing justice is critical to advancing economic security for all Nebraskans.
How does Housing Instability Impact Gender-Based Violence?
Lack of access to safe and affordable housing is a primary barrier for survivors of intimate partner violence seeking to leave an abusive situation. Through withholding and damaging a survivor’s savings, credit rating and general finances, perpetrators often make survivors reliant on them for financial needs, including housing. This makes it especially difficult for survivors to leave and find housing and is why some survivors feel pressured to return to an abuser.
Survivors face other barriers in addition to financial concerns when attempting to secure their own housing, including discrimination in the rental process because of previous history with the criminal justice system that may be a result of the violence they experienced in their relationships, not having a rental history because an abuser may have controlled the housing situation, ending up in substandard housing because of difficulty being accepted to adequate housing options, and maintaining confidentiality and safety from abusers while in shelters.
- 25% of homeless women report that family violence of any kind is the cause of their homelessness.
- 38% of women who experienced intimate partner violence have also experienced homelessness at some point in their life.
- Over 80% of survivors entering shelters identified “finding housing as a need.”
How does Housing Instability Impact Reproductive Justice?
Nebraskans should be able to decide if, when and how they want to become a parent, and it should be a right for guardians to raise children in a safe environment with appropriate access to health care. Housing instability threatens pregnant people and parents’ rights to achieve this in numerous ways. Pregnant people experiencing housing instability or homelessness are more likely to experience financial burdens related to the cost of pregnancy, and this financial strain forces the pregnant person to choose between necessary health care and maintaining safe, stable housing.
In addition to the costs of pregnancy, there is consideration for how to pay for both housing and the cost of raising a child. For new parents, housing instability can negatively impact maternal health and infant health outcomes. Experiencing housing instability or an eviction during pregnancy is linked to an increased likelihood of preterm birth and low birth weight, and housing instability is a risk factor for maternal mortality. A lack of safe and stable housing can also have harmful impacts on a child’s mental and emotional well-being and educational outcomes.