The average woman in Cornwall cannot afford to live alone, new analysis shows, with rental prices too high for their wages.

A leading gender equality think tank has called for urgent investment in social housing to address what it described as an affordability “crisis”, which is hitting women hardest.

Housing charities define a home as unaffordable if the rent takes up 30 per cent or more of a household's earnings.

The median monthly rent for a one-bedroom property in Cornwall was £525 in 2018-19, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The median is a measure used to exclude extreme values which could skew the average.

Earnings figures, also from the ONS, show that women in the area – including both full and part-time workers – earned a median salary of £1,324 per month before tax in 2019.

That means the typical woman would have to fork out 40 per cent of her salary to be able to afford to live alone.

In comparison, local men earn an average of £2,129 per month, so would only have to give up 25 per cent of their salary for the same property.

Across England, women would have to pay 38 per cent of their salary on average to live alone, compared to 24 per cent for men.

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of the Women's Budget Group think tank, said a lack of affordable housing may trap women in violent relationships, and mean they are more likely to end up homeless.

She said: "We are facing a crisis in housing affordability in the UK – for women, the crisis is even more severe.

"Although women and men tend to buy or rent their homes as a couple, women are likely to find themselves unable to afford a home of their own if that relationship breaks down.

"The Government urgently needs to invest in social housing. This would not only provide much needed affordable housing but would save billions of pounds in housing benefit."

The increase in rental prices across the country has far outstripped wage growth over the last eight years, with the average property now 22 per cent more expensive than during 2010-11.

Average salaries meanwhile have only increased by 17 per cent over the same period.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said "decades of failure" to build social homes had left millions with little hope of escaping the financial hardship they face in the private rental market.

She said: "Despite working all the hours they can, millions of people are struggling to keep up with the sky-high cost of private rents.

"Recent efforts to improve renters’ rights by banning costly letting fees and committing to abolish ‘no-fault’ evictions are very welcome, but private renting is not always the right place for struggling families to live.

"Ultimately, the only way to solve the housing emergency is for the government to commit to building at least 90,000 genuinely affordable social homes a year over the course of this parliament."

The biggest rent increase in Cornwall has been for homes with four or more bedrooms, followed by rooms in house shares.

Average rents in Cornwall:

Single room: £410 in 2018-19, up 28 per cent from £320 in 2010-11

Studio: £460 in 2018-19, up 23 per cent from £375 in 2011

One-bedroom: £525 in 2018-19, up 12 per cent from £467

Two-bedroom: £650 in 2018-19, up 13 per cent from £575

Three-bedroom: £765 in 2018-19, up 18 per cent from £650

Four or more bedrooms: £1,125 in 2018-19, up 36 per cent from £828