Three women celebrate their Habitat Chicago home dedication


Despite the fact that it is harder for women to become homeowners than it is for similarly situated men, single women are currently outpacing single men when it comes to homeownership, both here in Chicago and across the country. Homeownership is not only a powerful wealth-generating tool; it also improves the health, educational, and social outcomes for individuals and their children.

To achieve gender equality and to provide children with futures of opportunity, we must take affordable homeownership seriously. Women Build exists to do just that. It’s not just 500 women coming together to build houses – it’s 500 women coming together to build strength, stability, and equality.

Woman hammering a nail at Women Build


Let's first talk about stable, quality, and affordable homeownership and why it matters:


>> A home is typically the largest asset a family will have and its equity increases a family's wealth over time. 

>> An affordable mortgage gives families a predictable, controlled amount for their shelter for decades, as opposed to facing the volatility of rent increases that plague quickly-changing city markets.

>> As of 2019, the average homeowner's net worth of $254,900 is more than 40 times that of renters' $6,270. Given that the average price of homes continues to rise, the gap between homeowners' and renters' wealth will continue to increase.



>> Poor housing quality is associated with higher baseline symptoms of anxiety, depression, and aggression in children from elementary school through young adulthood.2 It is also associated with a variety of negative health outcomes, including asthma and cardiovascular disease risk factors.3

>> Families living in quality affordable housing are able to dedicate as much as 2x more of their income to health, and are significantly less likely to forgo needed doctor's visits and medications.4

>> Renter households with children are more likely to have asthma triggers in their homes than owner households, and are more likely to have at least one child with asthma.5



>> For low-income families, housing affordability is associated with greater spending on child enrichment. It also reduces children's residential instability, which has been associated with increased educational attainment and increased earnings in adulthood.6

>> All other things being equal, children of homeowners do better in school (scoring higher on test scores and lower on anti-social behaviors), and have lower crime and drug usage rates.7

Women Builder at work on new home construction

Here's why it's harder for women to become homeowners:

Lower Income and Uneven Care Responsibilities

>> Women are estimated to make 85 cents for every dollar a man makes in 2021. This number is considerably lower for Black women and women of color who experience a larger wage gap than white women.8 This gap results in fewer means for women to acquire quality homes in stable neighborhoods.9 

>> There is not a state in the U.S. where women have an average higher salary than men and the median income of households headed by women is almost $20,000 lower than those headed by men.
10 In Illinois, there is a 22% difference between the earnings of men and women working in year-round, full-time positions, which is reflective of the wealth disparities between men and women in the labor market.10

>> As of 2019, 80.7% of single-parent households in the United States are headed by women.11 Similarly, regardless of job status, child-care duties, and other related factors, women are twice as likely to be the sole, primary caretaker for an elderly parent or another adult.12 These uneven caregiving responsibilities prevent women from equally investing their time and financial resources into homeownership. 


Higher Mortgage Denials and Mortgage Rates, Despite Superior Payment Performance

>> Due to factors like the gender pay gap, women tend to have higher debt-to-income ratios and worse credit profiles. Typical lenders do not take any offsetting factors into account and single women are thus denied mortgages at higher rates than single men, even though women are more reliable when it comes to paying their mortgages.13

>> In 49 of 50 states, women pay higher mortgage rates than men.14 When single women are awarded mortgages, they face significantly higher interest rates than single men because of their weaker credit profiles, and are more likely to be given a subprime loan.15


It's Even Harder for Black Women

>> Due to the history of racist practices in our nation, such as redlining, predatory lending, racial covenants, and other government programs, prospective Black homebuyers have had a harder time becoming homeowners because of the color of their skin.

>> In 2019, the median wealth of a single white man under the age of 35 ($22,640) was 3.5 times greater than that of single white women ($6,370) and 224 times greater than that of single Black women ($101).16

>> Single white women without a college degree have $3,000 more in median wealth than single black women with a college degree. Single white women with a bachelor’s degree have seven times the wealth of their black counterparts, $35,000 and $5,000 in median wealth, respectively. One reason for the wealth gap among college educated single women is that Black women have the highest level of student debt due to racial wealth and income gaps and struggle to pay off the debt in early adulthood despite working full-time.17

>> While single white mothers have a median wealth of $3,000, single Black mothers experience the largest wealth disadvantage with a median wealth of zero – at least half of Black single mothers had no wealth or had debts greater than the value of their assets. Black families have been shut out of wealth opportunities over several generations due to discrimination and lack of investment by policymakers.17


Five Women Habitat Chicago Homeowners Celebrating their Strength after a Wall-Raising


>> Negative social impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be disproportionately concentrated among women and marginalized communities. This is in part due to the lack of resources available to withstand the economic impacts of the pandemic.18 Additionally, since home and childcare duties unevenly fall onto the shoulders of women, the move to remote schooling forced many women to leave the workforce, which could threaten to slow or reverse the positive growth of female homeownership.18

>> Women's employment has also been impacted due to the pandemic. Women are at a greater risk because many are employed in industries that have been hit hard, such as service and hospitality.18 From February to April of 2020, women, particularly Black women, suffered greater job loss and higher rates of unemployment than men. Over 860,000 of the 1.1 million people who left the labor market in September 2020 were women.19


Team Wolfpack at Women Build with Habitat Chicago


Despite all of these hurdles, single women are outpacing single men when it comes to homeownership.

>> On average, single women own 1.6 million more homes in 50 of the largest metros in the U.S. Overall, single women own 5.2 million homes while single men own roughly 3.6 million homes and there is not a single metro among the list of 50 largest metros where single male homeownership outnumbers female homeownership.20

>> In Chicago, 313,281 homes are owned by single women (13.82%), while 209,400 homes are owned by single men (9.24%).20

Habitat Homeowner Denae Poses with Her Son before Moving into New Home


Together, as a community of 500+ women strong, we will:

>> Help more of our sisters become owners of stable, quality, and affordable homes.

>> Help more of our sisters grow their wealth and independence.

>> Help more of our sisters provide futures of opportunity for their children.

>> Help move the needle on gender inequality.


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