After the workplace disruptions of the past two years, most single women heads of household now think homeownership is not for them.
In a research brief, Freddie Mac found that 60% of single female heads of household renters don’t think they can ever afford a home, with 80% citing insufficient savings for a down payment or closing costs. About 75% of the 2,000 respondents think that a mortgage would be more expensive than rent or that they don’t make enough to pay a mortgage.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had disparate economic impacts nationwide, particularly on women who are heads of their households, such as single moms and caretakers,” said Pam Perry, single-family vice president of equitable housing.
The Biden administration has sought to ease barriers to homeownership by offering down payment assistance options for first-time homebuyers. As Congress looks to cut costs of the social infrastructure bill, whether it will pass such a measure is unclear.
In the past two years, parts of the economy where women are overrepresented, such as the hospitality and service industry, were hit hardest. Single female heads of households are also more likely to bear the brunt of childcare, which might explain why of those that have left the workforce, 75% have not returned.
A lot of uncertainty remains, even as the economy gets back on track, said Leonard Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac. For single women who are the head of their households, that uncertainty varies by region, sometimes tied to specific school districts.
“If you have primary childcare responsibilities, it makes it tough to go and take on a job where you may not have as much flexibility,” Kiefer said.
It’s also getting harder for sole-person households to find suitable housing, much less achieve the goal of homeownership.
Even before the pandemic, the number of sole-person households was on the rise — creating more demand for the increasingly hard-to-find affordable, modestly sized home. In the past four decades, sole-person households have almost doubled. According to the 2020 Current Population Survey, 36 million households or 28% of all households are sole-person, up from 18.2 million households in 1980.
Freddie Mac forecasts that the baby boomer share of sole-person homes — now nearly 40% of such households — will continue to grow, driven by divorces, or deaths of spouses or partners. Baby boomers are also staying in their homes longer.
The growing prevalence of sole-person households is adding to demand for smaller, more affordable homes. But builders are making fewer of them: four-bedroom homes that account for 44% of all new construction, compared to 29% in 1990, per the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction. The share of homes with two bedrooms or less declined from 15% to 10% during the same period.