Most people in the US are now homeless because rents have gone up so much
The United States is currently experiencing a significant rise in homelessness, the highest since the yearly point-in-time survey began in 2007. According to federal officials, about 653,000 people were homeless as of the latest count, a 12% increase amounting to an additional 70,650 people compared to the previous year. This surge is attributed to a combination of soaring rents and the decline in coronavirus pandemic assistance, making housing increasingly inaccessible for many Americans.
Significantly, people becoming homeless for the first time contributed to much of this increase, reversing a downward trend in family homelessness that began in 2012. The shortage of affordable homes and high housing costs have been identified as major factors behind this crisis, with many Americans living paycheck to paycheck and just one crisis away from homelessness.
Breaking down the demographics, the rise in homelessness varied among different groups. Homelessness among individuals increased by nearly 11%, among veterans by 7.4%, and among families with children by a substantial 15.5%. Notably, Black individuals, who make up about 13% of the U.S. population, comprised 37% of all people experiencing homelessness. Similarly, Hispanic or Latino individuals, representing about 19% of the population, accounted for approximately 33% of the homeless population. Furthermore, more than a quarter of the adults experiencing homelessness were over the age of 54.
The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department highlighted the extraordinarily challenging rental housing conditions in 2022, with rents increasing at more than twice the rate of recent years. However, there has been some easing of these conditions since the January count, offering a glimmer of hope for future improvements.
In response to this crisis, President Joe Biden’s budget for the fiscal year recommended guaranteed vouchers for low-income veterans and youths aging out of foster care, among other investments designed to reduce homelessness. More than half of the homeless population in the U.S. is concentrated in four states: California, New York, Florida, and Washington. California, despite having about 28% of the nation’s homeless, saw an increase of only about half the national rate, while New York experienced a rise more than three times the national rate.
The pandemic had a profound impact on rental housing costs, with the end of pandemic-era protections leading to an increase in homelessness, evictions, and housing instability. This situation was further complicated in places like New York City, where the influx of international migrants overwhelmed the homeless shelter system. Mayor Eric Adams of New York City has sought federal assistance to address the housing needs of these migrants.
Despite these challenges, some communities have made notable progress in reducing homelessness. Chattanooga, Tennessee, saw a 49% drop from the 2022 count due to increased efforts to connect people to permanent housing and prevent homelessness. Other areas such as Dallas, Newark and Essex County in New Jersey, and Houston also reported reductions in homelessness, illustrating that targeted strategies and investments can effectively address this pressing issue