Why Women Build


Research is constantly emerging on the long-term benefits of affordable homeownership. However, homeownership is a tool that is frequently denied to women, particularly women of color. Women Build exists to help Habitat Chicago's female homebuyers overcome these barriers.

The Benefits of Homeownership 

Here are some of the major findings that lead us to believe so fully in the link between affordable homeownership and healthy families and neighborhoods. 


• 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 having to face the volatility of rent increases that plague quickly-changing city markets. 


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

• Homeowners have a significant health advantage over renters, on average. They are 2.5% more likely to have good health; when adjusting for an array of demographic, socioeconomic, and housing-related characteristics, the homeowner advantage increases to 3.1%.  

Educational and Social

 • 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. 

• Children who move three or more times for negative reasons (such as an eviction or need for lower rent) are 15% less likely to graduate from high school and 68% less likely to complete college compared to those who never moved. 

Homeowners are more likely to be involved in community-based civic engagements, local elections, and volunteer work compared to renters. 


The Roadblocks for Women

The goal of owning a home is far more difficult for women to realize than for men in similar situations for many reasons. And it's even more difficult for women of color. 

Lower Income and Uneven Care Responsibilities

• On average, women earn less than men working in year-round, full-time positions in Illinois (79 cents on the dollar and even lower for women of color) and thus do not have the same access to credit and loans. This gap results in fewer means for women to acquire quality homes in stable neighborhoods. 

• 8.6 million American households are headed by single mothers, while 2.6 million are headed by single fathers. Similarly, women are significantly more likely to be the sole caretaker for an elderly parent or another adult. 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 therefore single women are consistently denied mortgages at higher rates than single men, even though they are more reliable when it comes to paying their mortgages.

• 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.

• Given that single women make up 17% of all home purchases, double the rate of single men, the housing market as a whole suffers when single female buyers are locked out.   


Unfair Valuation

• Nationwide, the values of homes owned by women have appreciated slower over 15 years of ownership than those owned by men. According to a recent real estate study, single women have gained a 31% value on their homes, while single men have seen a 33% value increase, thus perpetuating the cycle of gendered wealth inequality.  

Worse for Women of Color

• Due to discriminatory policies, such as redlining, and predatory practices, like contracts for deed and targeted subprime lending, black women have disproportionately been shut out of the wealth-growing opportunity of homeownership.

• It is also more challenging for black women to improve their credit to purchase a home. They less frequently benefit from intergenerational wealth transfers, such as parents paying for college tuition or offering home downpayment assistance.


• Similarly, black women have the highest growth rate of college enrollment of all groups, an important and impressive advance. However, they also have the highest level of student debt, further increasing their debt-to-income ratio and worsening their credit characteristics. Older, single black women with a college degree have an average of $11,000 in wealth, compared to their white counterparts' $384,000. 



The Role of Women Build

When a woman purchases a home with Habitat Chicago, she doesn't just build a house. She builds her wealth and a better future for herself and her family, with support, resources, and opportunities exclusive to the Habitat community.

By raising the funds needed to construct a woman's home and coming together on the build site to physically construct the home, Women Builders unlock the countless possibilities of homeownership for their fellow women.


Meet the female homebuyers of Habitat Chicago here


1. How Housing Matters
2. Why Homeownership Matters, Forbes
3. Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing  
4. Single women face a unique obstacle to homeownership
5. We're still shortchanging women when it comes to mortgages
6. Women, Race, and Wealth
7. Heartland Alliance 2017 Report on IL Poverty