#InternationalWomensDay: Why Developers Must Focus On Providing Housing To Single Women
Data show one in every five American women aged 25 and over has never been married. However, these women are not letting their single status come in the way of home ownership. Consequently, 18 per cent of all homebuyers in the US in 2017 were single women, data available with the National Association of Realtors show. In comparison, single men accounted only for seven per cent of total homebuyers. In 2016, too, single women accounted for 17 per cent of homebuyers while single men accounted only for seven per cent of total homebuyers.
This is not to say this is a worldwide phenomenon. As property becomes more and more expensive despite an overall slump across the world’s major markets, single and aging women run the risk of living in rented accommodations for their entire lives.
"In an environment of exceedingly high house prices, groups who don't have secure, long-term employment are at the risk of homelessness, particularly as they age. Single, older women are one such group at increasing risk of being homeless," authors Yvonne Hartman and Sandy Darab wrote in an article in The Conversation last year, talking specifically about the state of affairs in Australia.
Closer home, you get to see a strange mix of the two theories.
According to Census 2001, 7.4 per cent of India's women population was single — women who are unmarried, divorced, widowed, separated. By 2011, their share to the women population reached 21 per cent, an estimate shows. This means more and more women in India are deciding to stay single even if they are an aberration. Quite disheartening, though, is the fact that even if such women are able to somehow deal with the labeling of being social outcasts, they would find it extremely hard to find a house even if they have the resources to buy one.
While authorities have been formulating schemes to increase property ownership among Indian women, single women dreaming to have a room of their own are forced to confront the bitter reality of the real estate world.
Let us talk about the funds first, since that is the primary requirement when it comes to property purchases.
How she has to count every penny
The first and foremost problem will arise while saving the down-payment. Typically, women employees earn much less than their male counterparts, a worldwide phenomenon. Little wonder then that they are not able to save as much as their male counterparts. At the time of their retirement, for instance, a single man will typically have more savings than a single woman. So, even if a single woman decided to buy a home in the later part of her life, she may have to make certain compromises. She may not be able to buy a house in a locality of her choice, for instance, because the price is too high. If she decided to become a home owner while she is still young, the compromises she will have to make will be many more.
Now, should she worry since the world is full of banks, competing with one another to offer cheaper loans to women borrowers?
There is more to it than meets the eye.
While banks may be offering a lower rate of interest to women, a single woman would have to work harder than a married one before she sees a financial institution accepting her home-loan application. As it is, banks are more willing to lend to those borrowers, who come along with a co-applicant, preferably their spouses. In the absence of a spouse, you will have to convince your parents to become a co-applicant since siblings would find it hard to avail of a home loan together. Age matters much here, too. While younger women with prospects of a rise in their incomes may still manage to get a loan, a single woman's loan application who is inching closer to her retirement may often meet rejection. All this makes it quite hard for a single woman to be able to afford a house. The fact that women across Indian states have to pay less in stamp duty is not really helpful because most single women will fail to reach that stage. In almost all states, women pay at least two percentage points less as stamp duty on properties registered in their names. In some states, such as Jammu and Jharkhand, women homebuyers don’t have to pay stamp duty.
The change we need
Because there is a huge business opportunity here, developers may dedicate certain portions in a project to this target group. A certain tower in a group housing project, for example, could be constructed keeping in mind the specific requirements of a single woman. Would it not be nice to have housing societies meant specifically for single women, built on the lines of senior living?
Today, even if a single woman can afford it, she would find it hard to bear the ever-judging gaze of her neighbours. Dedicated housing options would boost her confidence in investing.
The government on its part may provide incentives for developers for offering women-centric housing options so that this section of homebuyers is able to make the most of the rebate the government already offers women.
Women are less likely to default on their liabilities, global studies prove that. Banks may want to go a little easy on such applicants next time an application by a single woman comes their way.