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Lesbian, gay and bisexual people face serious inequalities when it comes to housing, finds new research from Sheffield Hallam

LGB people are significantly less likely to own their own home, but are more likely to be living in private rented accommodation, according to a study from Sheffield Hallam University.

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LGB people are more likely to live in social housing, the availability of which has shrunk in recent decades.

Benjamin Elliott on Unsplash.

Gay and bisexual men and women in the UK are less likely to own their own home, and are more likely to live in privately rented or socially rented accommodation than heterosexual people.

That’s one of the headline findings from groundbreaking new research carried out by academics at Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Nottingham and the University of Sterling, who analysed almost a decade’s worth of data from British households in a first-of-its-kind study.

Using survey responses from around 10,000 UK households taken as part of the UK Household Longitudinal Survey (UKHLS), they found a big disparity in home ownership among gay men: while 73% of straight male respondents were owner-occupiers, this fell to 63% for gay man and 66% for bisexual men.

The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, also found that around 68% of gay women and 51% of bisexual women were owner-occupiers, compared to 70% of heterosexual women.

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The study found that 70% of heterosexual women own their own home compared to just 51% of bisexual women.

Anton Velchev on Unsplash.

The authors point out their study was only able to focus on lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people because the UKHLS only asked respondents about their sexual orientation, and not their gender identity, but said other pieces of research have suggested similar outcomes for trans people in housing.

"Housing policy in the UK is designed around the heterosexual nuclear family,” said Professor Peter Matthews, the report’s lead author from the University of Stirling. “Our findings clearly show that lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Great Britain are disadvantaged when it comes to home ownership.

“These inequalities are likely a direct result of three things: gay and bisexual men being refused mortgages and life insurance in the 1980s and 1990s because of stigma with HIV/AIDS; the long-term rule for a male signatory on a mortgage application, which excluded all women from home ownership; and, more recently, the fact that gay men and bisexuals are earning less.”

In the social rented sector, researchers from the three universities found that 20% of gay women, 26% of bisexual women, 17% of gay men and 15% of bisexual men were in socially rented accommodation (such as council housing). This compared to 11% of heterosexual women and 12% of heterosexual men.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people were also broadly more likely to be renting privately: 21% of gay men and 19% of bisexual men do so, compared to 16% of heterosexual men, while 23% of bisexual women and 12% of gay women do, compared to 19% of heterosexual women.

At a time when the social rented sector continues to be deliberately run down by the government, and where private renters are subject to unaccountable landlords, poor housing conditions and record rent rises, these figures represent a serious inequality between LGB and heterosexual people in Britain.

The researchers said that disparities in the data still existed after taking into account the fact that the LGB population is on average younger than the heterosexual population, and that a disproportionate number of LGB people live in London and the south east.

“Some in the LGB community are more impacted than others – those with children or who are either married or co-habiting are statistically significantly less likely to be homeowners than their heterosexual counterparts, for example,” said Professor Matthews.

“And because the LGB population is younger, we are storing up problems for the future, when this population ages and will not have the same levels of wealth and housing assets as their heterosexual counterparts to support them in later life.”

Concluding their report, the team, which included Professor Eleanor Formby of Sheffield Hallam University, found that the increasingly financialised nature of housing in the era of neoliberalism was exacerbating the inequalities they identified in their research.

“Good quality, affordable housing is recognised as a basic element of welfare and wellbeing,” the authors write in their conclusion. “As discussed, the shift towards a more asset-based welfare system in increasingly neo-liberal and financialised welfare states, means that home ownership is now also an increasing part of welfare provision for older age. These changes have been paralleled with the growth in ‘generation rent’ in countries like the UK, and a concern over falling rates of home ownership and growing intra-generational wealth inequality.”

They continue: “Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are less likely to own their own home. Part of this is due to the differing age profile of this population; however, when controlling for age and other factors associated with an increased likelihood of home ownership, the disparity remains.

“This has implications for the wellbeing and welfare of LGB people: they have less housing wealth; pay more for poorer quality housing in the private-rented sector; and will have fewer assets to rely on when they grow older.”

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