Record Numbers Lose Shelter as Rents Skyrocket Nationwide
By April Fowell
Rising rents have led to a surge in homelessness, with an estimated 653,000 individuals reported homeless in January 2023, marking a 12% increase from the previous year and a significant 48% increase from 2015, according to a research release from Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Homelessness is no longer confined to traditionally expensive areas like California and Washington; states such as Arizona, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas have seen notable increases due to rising local housing expenses.
The housing insecurity crisis is driven by factors such as heightened inflation, soaring rental prices surpassing wage gains, and the expiration of pandemic relief measures in 2022. A sharp spike of nearly 71,000 people experiencing homelessness was recorded in that year as a result of these challenges.
Due to the financial strain caused by rising rents in recent years, an increasing number of Americans are becoming homeless.
A research released on January 25 by Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates that 653,000 individuals reported being homeless in January 2023, an increase of around 12% from the same month the previous year and 48% from 2015. According to Harvard academics, that is the biggest one-year growth in the nation's homeless population ever.
Long a concern in places like California and Washington, homelessness has also surged in previously more inexpensive areas of the United States. The states with the biggest increases in the number of homeless people include Arizona, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas as a result of growing local housing expenses.
Escalating Housing Insecurity: Causes and Impacts
The significant increase in individuals grappling with housing insecurity occurred amid heightened inflation in 2021 and 2022, exacerbated by soaring rental prices that outpaced wage gains. Researchers attribute the surge in homelessness to a combination of factors, with high rents and the expiration of pandemic relief measures in the previous year playing crucial roles.
During the initial years of the pandemic, measures such as renter protections, income supports, and housing assistance helped prevent a substantial rise in homelessness. However, as these safeguards expired in 2022, coinciding with a rapid increase in rents and a growing number of migrants facing work restrictions, the report notes a sharp spike of nearly 71,000 people experiencing homelessness within a single year.
Since 2001, rent has increased steadily in the United States. Some 12 million tenants were severely cost-burdened that year, meaning they spent more than half of their monthly pay on rent and utilities, up 14% from pre-pandemic levels.
The Harvard researchers identified half of all U.S. households across income levels spent between 30% and 50% of their monthly pay on housing in 2022, defining them as "cost-burdened." They discovered this information by analyzing Census and real estate data.
The Joint Center for Housing Studies found that those with annual incomes between $45,000 and $74,999 were most negatively impacted by rising rent, paying 41% of their take-home pay for housing and utilities on average.
The U.S. suggests that tenants should typically set aside no more than 30% of their income for rent. Housing and Urban Development Department.
The typical rent in the United States was $1,964 in December 2023, up 23% from before the epidemic, according to online housing marketplace Rent, despite evidence that the rental market is cooling. In contrast, official data indicates that the median worker's inflation-adjusted weekly wages increased by 1.7% between 2019 and 2023.
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