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As Rents Increase, So Does the Homeless Population

As Rents Increase, So Does the Homeless Population

Rising rents in the nation’s booming urban areas are creating crisis levels of homelessness that will continue or even accelerate as rents rise, according to research from online real estate company Zillow.

The connection between homelessness and increasing rents is especially strong in places that are already facing rapidly growing homeless populations: New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Seattle.

A five percent increase in New York rents over the next year would force almost 3,000 more people into homelessness, according to a new analysis from Zillow.

In Los Angeles, the homeless population would grow by roughly 2,000, and Seattle would see its homeless population increase by nearly 260.

While the connection between the rising cost of housing and homelessness is generally accepted, Zillow’s statistical analysis is the first to forecast for each city how many people will be pushed into homelessness as rents increase over time.

Relying solely on the number of homeless people counted during a one-night survey is an imperfect method.

Previous research has found that as few as 59 percent of unsheltered homeless people are included in a given count.

Weather, the number of volunteers and even the count methodology can change from year to year, affecting the accuracy of the count. This new research predicts the total number of people experiencing homelessness, expanding on the counted number.

New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Seattle Are Especially Unaffordable

Zillow found that homelessness rates in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Seattle increased by at least four percent between 2011 and 2016, and these cities have a strong relationship between rising rents and growing homeless populations.

Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Pittsburgh also show a significant connection between rising rents and homelessness rates.

Not all markets in this analysis have a strong relationship between rents and the number of people experiencing homelessness, indicating that they have found a way to interrupt the trend.

Even as rents have risen in Houston and Tampa, for example, the homeless population in each city fell. Other cities where the homelessness rates also fell include Chicago, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Diego, Portland, Detroit, Baltimore, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Riverside.

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