With skyrocketing rents and high inflation rates, many low-income earners can no longer afford housing and therefore risk facing homelessness.
According to data from the real estate marketplace Zillow, the median national rent rose by 15.9% across a one-year period ending in May 2022, far outpacing wage growth and leaving many struggling to stay housed.
"The unprecedented increases in rent prices over the past year are further exacerbating our country's affordable housing crisis, pushing more people into homelessness each year," said Brooke Schipporeit, Manager of Field Organizing at the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
"As COVID-19 emergency resources are being depleted and pandemic-era renter protections expire, renters are faced with increased inflation and skyrocketing rents," Schipporeit added.
"Rising rental prices are associated with an increase in homelessness," Schipporeit continued. "The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that a $100 increase in median rent is associated with a 9% increase in the estimated homelessness rate, even after accounting for other relevant factors."
If evicted or forced to move due to rent hikes, tenants enter a market with steep competition for the few available affordable units. Section 8 vouchers, a Federal program offering assistance to low-income renters, are hard to come by. With few places to turn, some may have to enter the shelter system, try to survive on the streets, or "double up"—stay temporarily in other people's homes. According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, an estimated 49,585 people lived doubled up in Chicago in 2020, an increase of more than 20% from 2019.
Unless major policy measures are undertaken, the near future looks dim.
"Congress must increase investments in long-term solutions to address the underlying shortage of affordable, accessible homes and to increase choice in where households live," Schipporeit shared. "Until permanent solutions to widespread housing unaffordability are enacted, implemented, and enforced, the lowest-income renters will continue to face housing precarity and instability."
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