As we celebrate International Women’s day, it’s a good time to think of what the finance sector can do to help women find independence after life-changing events.  
 

Importance of the home
The home plays a central role in healthy family relationships. It’s home base – the place where we spend most of our time together, sharing memories, meals, and intimate moments.    
 
In dysfunctional or broken relationships, the home can play an even more important role in providing family stability, emotional support and financial security. As the place where the family, and in particular children, feel safe and nurtured, the home is extremely important.  In the event of divorce or separation, many women feel their lives have been thrown into limbo as they struggle to provide for the needs of their children, but also provide the safe haven of a home.
 
However, too often after an event such as divorce or separation, women struggle to maintain home ownership for financial and affordability reasons, particularly when taking on the role of primary caregivers to children. In many cases, it’s impossible for a newly divorced or separated woman to remain in the family home on a single income or Government benefits as income, combined with the demands of childcare fees, school expenses and household costs, all with limited money coming in. Instead of feeling safe and secure when they most need it, a place to call home can instead be a source of financial and emotional stress.
 
How HomeStart can help
HomeStart offers ways to assist single or newly single women in this situation, such as low deposit loans, providing an alternative to Lenders’ Mortgage Insurance, loan options that boost the amount they can borrow - in some cases up to 30% more - and recognising a broader range of incomes for eligibility, such as family tax benefits or Centrelink payments. These loan options have resulted in more females coming to HomeStart, with more than a third (33%) of all of our loans made-up of single females. Of these loans, almost half (40%) are non-first home buyers, many of who may be finding their feet after divorce or break-up. 
 
Many of the home loan options we offer help women remain in their family home after divorce or break-up, reducing the amount of money they need upfront and, most importantly, reducing regular repayments so there is room in the budget for all of the family’s needs. Often, it’s just the helping hand they need to get over the first financial hurdle and set them and their family on the right path.
 
With single parent families making up one in six Australian households (ABS data),  there’s no reason that some or all of the measures that HomeStart Finance currently has in place couldn’t be adopted more broadly across the financial services sector.