Washington, D.C. – HUD will soon release its 2023 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR): Part 1. The report provides an annual Point-in-Time (PIT) estimate of the number of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S., offering a snapshot of both sheltered and unsheltered homelessness on a single night.
Increased homelessness is the tragic, yet predictable, consequence of underinvesting in the resources and protections that help people find and maintain safe, affordable housing.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government responded to the growing threat of housing insecurity by providing unprecedented resources and protections to keep renters housed, including $46.6 billion in emergency rental assistance (ERA) and a national moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent. The strong government response also included several innovative steps that drove a record decline in poverty, including an expansion of the Child Tax Credit and Economic Impact Payments (often referred to as stimulus payments), investment in 70,000 Emergency Housing Vouchers, and $4 billion in Emergency Solutions Grants to mitigate the effects of the pandemic among households experiencing homelessness or receiving homelessness assistance.
The relief measures helped stave off a catastrophic wave of evictions and, in the worst cases, homelessness. According to HUD’s 2021 AHAR: Part 2, in 2021, sheltered homelessness decreased by 17% compared to 2019, and family homelessness decreased by 25% over the same period. But these resources were never meant to address the root causes of the affordable housing crisis – the nation’s severe shortage of affordable, available housing for people with the lowest incomes, and the persistent gap between renters’ incomes and rent. Now, pandemic-era federal resources and protections have largely expired, leaving households at risk of homelessness without the assistance needed to remain stably housed.
“The historic resources and protections provided during the pandemic kept millions of renters stably housed, and the success of these resources is shown by the decrease in homelessness over that same period,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “Just as these emergency resources were depleted and pandemic-era renter protections expired, however, renters reentered a brutal housing market, with skyrocketing rents and high inflation. Eviction filing rates have now reached or surpassed pre-pandemic averages in many communities, resulting in increased homelessness. Without significant and sustained federal investments to make housing affordable for people with the lowest incomes, the affordable housing and homelessness crises in this country will only continue to worsen.”
“Homelessness impacts every community in this nation,” said NAEH CEO Ann Oliva. “Fortunately, there are solutions that are proven to work if they are appropriately funded. That includes making urgent and overdue investments in affordable housing and rental assistance to keep people housed, as well as in proven housing and supportive service models that rapidly reconnect people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing. We need sustained investment in evidence-based approaches at the federal and state levels to reverse course nationally.”
“Homelessness is unacceptable: we have the tools to ensure everyone has a safe, stable place to live, but we’ve failed to invest in them,” says Peggy Bailey, Vice President for Housing and Income Security at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). “We must address the main driver of homelessness and housing instability — the gap between low incomes and rent costs. That means expanding rental assistance for all people with the lowest incomes. We have learned a lot from approaches that have targeted specific populations and helped them exit homelessness. Now we need to take those lessons and broaden them to ensure that anyone who needs help, gets it, period.”
Throughout the nation, America’s lowest-income renters face a significant gap between incomes and housing costs that contributes to a severe shortage of affordable and available homes. There is a national shortage of more than 7.3 million homes affordable and available for renters with the lowest incomes – a shortage that worsened significantly during the pandemic. Without affordable, available housing options and higher incomes, more than 10 million of America’s lowest-income households, disproportionately people of color, pay at least half their income on rent and utilities. With so much money going to keep a roof over their heads, renters with the lowest incomes are forced to live precariously, always one unexpected expense – for a broken-down car or unreimbursed medical bill – away from housing instability, eviction, and, in the worst cases, homelessness. Despite the clear and urgent need, Congress only provides housing assistance to one in four eligible households.
The failure to fund deeply affordable housing hurts longtime residents and newcomers alike. Some communities have seen an increase in asylum seekers or other new immigrants this year, and the lack of rental and income assistance has left many newcomers with nowhere to stay while they get on their feet. Homelessness is unacceptable regardless of who experiences it. In such a powerful, wealthy country, we have the resources to ensure everyone an affordable place to live.
To fully address the affordable housing and homelessness crises, Congress must provide the significant, long-term investments needed to make rental assistance universally available, preserve and expand housing stock affordable to people with the lowest incomes, fund a permanent emergency rental assistance program, sustainably fund homelessness and other supportive services to help people find and keep housing, and implement and enforce robust tenant protections.
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