Rising Rents Leads to Homeless Increase in NY

Rising rents in the nation’s top urban areas are creating crisis levels of homelessness that will continue or even accelerate as rents rise, according to research by real estate site Zillow. The connection between homelessness and increasing rents is especially strong in four cities that are already facing rapidly growing homeless populations: New YorkLos AngelesWashington, 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.

Rents are at record highs across the country, and income growth has not keep pace as rents grew, making paying the rent increasingly unaffordable. Seattle and Portland, OR have declared states of emergency in response to the number of people experiencing homelessness. The median rent payment in Los Angeles requires 49 percent of the typical household income, leaving little opportunity to save in case of an unexpected medical bill, or loss of a job – events which could push a family into homelessness.

“We’ve seen so much pressure in rental housing markets that it’s created a rental affordability crisis that has spilled over into a homelessness crisis at lower income levels,” said Zillow Senior Economist Dr. Skylar Olsen. “Often, the rental demand in these markets isn’t being met with a sufficient supply. There are several cities grappling with this problem, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. This report puts a number on the link between rising rents and homelessness, highlighting the very real human impact that rent increases are having across the country.”

Homelessness rates in New YorkLos AngelesWashington, 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. PhiladelphiaChicagoMinneapolisDetroit, 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 ChicagoPhoenixSt. LouisSan DiegoPortlandDetroitBaltimoreAtlanta, Charlotte, and Riverside.

Metropolitan
Area

Counted
Number of
Homeless
People, 2016v

Estimated
Total Number
of Homeless
People, 2016

Estimated Additional
Homeless People
with a 5% Increase in
Rent

Estimated
Total Number
of Homeless
People, 2017

Atlanta

4,546

5,447

83

5,605

Baltimore

3,488

4,088

79

4,121

Boston

6,240

6,418

128

6,557

Charlotte

1,818

2,139

68

2,249

Chicago

6,841

7,614

189

7,641

Dallas

3,810

3,866

77

4,019

Denver

5,728

6,320

73

6,457

Detroit

2,612

2,872

106

2,898

Houston

4,031

5,032

120

5,224

Los Angeles

46,874

59,508

1,993

61,398

Miami

4,235

4,624

109

4,701

Minneapolis

3,056

3,359

131

3,531

New York

73,523

76,411

2,982

76,341

Philadelphia

6,112

6,281

147

6,345

Phoenix

5,702

6,918

135

7,162

Pittsburgh

1,156

1,318

75

1,375

Portland, OR

3,914

4,674

55

4,807

Riverside

2,165

3,207

110

3,352

San Diego

8,669

11,149

184

11,455

San Francisco

6,996

8,752

68

8,815

Seattle

10,730

12,240

258

12,763

St. Louis

1,713

1,879

57

1,926

Tampa

1,817

3,090

69

3,204

Washington, D.C.

8,350

8,498

224

8,703