The Future of our Communities Lies in our Mothers’ Hands


The number of women rearing children by themselves in America has nearly tripled in the last 45 years, reaching a current estimate of 10 million single mothers in this country. The U.S. Census Bureau reports more than 1 in 4 families with children under the age of 18 are headed by a single parent and more than 3 out of 4 single parent families are headed by a female. Although women have made great economic strides in the last decade, studies show that they continue to be disproportionately impacted by poverty. Single mothers face serious economic challenges; they generally have lower incomes and higher living expenses for child care, healthcare and housing. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Selected Economic Characteristics, based on 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, 30.9 percent of American families headed by women with no husband present are below the poverty level. The information also affirms that 40.5 percent of these households have children below 18 years and 47 percent have children under five. California depicts slightly lower rates with a total of 27.9 percent single female households living in poverty, 37.8 percent with children under 18 and 40.6 with children under five. Living indefinitely in financially underprivileged states makes the search for affordable and safe housing difficult for these mothers and becomes a strain on their children’s education and economic well-being.

To help break this cycle of poverty, single mothers need access to housing programs and education, budget and credit counseling, financial advice and guidance to increase their opportunity for economic development and wealth through homeownership. Through the process of home purchase preparation, women can increase savings, decrease debt, improve their credit and develop a sustainable financial plan in order to build a stable future for themselves and their children. When low-income women are empowered through comprehensive education, training and counseling, many barriers to homeownership can be overcome.

Tarrant County Housing Partnership (TCHP), a housing nonprofit organization, created their Women’s Homeownership Initiative in 2011 with the goal of increasing wealth accumulation for low-income, single mothers, particularly those residing primarily in underserved communities. This objective was accomplished by building upon the traditional homeownership programs for low- and moderate-income families.

By applying a gender lens to existing programs and services, the Women’s Homeownership Initiative better reached and served the target population through collaborations with social service agencies and other women’s groups that shared similar goals. The program addressed not only housing, but other supportive service needs to deliver a holistic approach to homeownership preparation. Free educational workshops and seminars were provided on a wide range of topics such as job training, resume writing, computer skills, positive parenting, life skills and more. Program advisors fostered credit-challenged women with financial literacy and budget management training while building friendships and providing emotional support.

Another key strategy of the Initiative was combining grass-roots marketing to reach low-income single mothers while increasing awareness of the issue and its economic impact on the community to higher-income, professional women in an effort to engage community leadership and garner support and funding for program resolutions. Although the direct beneficiaries of the Initiative were the women and children served, entire communities benefitted from increased homeownership. The upsides of increased homeownership include: increased property values; decreased neighborhood crime; improved neighborhood community; decreased generational dependency on welfare and supportive service; lessened burden on taxpayers; tax revenue generation which increases the quality of schools and infrastructure; and increased economic impact of businesses as households purchase local goods and services in the community.

After helping families achieve the dream of owning a home, unfortunately, the TCHP Women’s Homeownership Initiative was shelved indefinitely within a year.

As a leader in the women’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) movement, NAWRB is launching our own Women’s Homeownership Initiative with the purpose of making owning a home possible for a greater number of women. As women grow in the American workforce, it is important to protect their progress with tangible assets. By helping make the dream of homeownership a reality for women, NAWRB will cement their economic footprint.

Through this new initiative, we are happy to be able to collaborate with TCHP to resurrect their initiative and expand women’s homeownership to a national level. NAWRB contends that it is important for influencers in the women’s movement to work together for the benefit of women, and we practice what we preach.

The NAWRB Women’s Homeownership Initiative will advocate for better data collection concerning women’s homeownership to better understand and address the obstacles facing potential women homeowners; champion women’s homeownership throughout our organization and networks in an effort to raise awareness and garner support for our initiative; host regional meetings for training on topics such as financial literacy to prepare women for homeownership; and call upon banks to create special lending programs for potential female homebuyers to ensure that hardworking women are not unjustly right-sized out of homeownership.

Many of us can say that our mothers were a guiding force in our lives and made our house a home. They not only showed us that dreams are possible, but what dreams to shoot for—a home, college, a good job—to ensure a safe and secure future. Programs like the Women’s Homeownership Initiative help women create a better future for their families which ultimately leads to stronger neighborhoods and communities. By investing in women’s homeownership, we can create a ripple effect that will produce a profound societal change, which is the fastest, surest way to positively affect the future of our communities.

NAWRB will be hosting Women’s Homeownership events on February 23 in Pasadena, CA, March 2 in Miami, FL and June 24-25 in Fort Worth, TX. For more information, please click here.

To view the original article, please see Volume 4, Issue 6 of NAWRB magazine by clicking here.

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