Can A Housing Revolution Relieve Homelessness In The US?

There are more than half a million people without homes in the United States, and at least a hundred million across the world. Homelessness is a big problem. With the global population approaching eight billion, it is likely to get worse.


But what can be done to help? Already, the way people live in America is changing. More families are renting rather than buying homes. Although rent is high, buying is not an option for many, with no way of putting down a deposit.


There are also the associated expenses. Whereas homeowners insurance can cost thousands of dollars a year, you can get a renters insurance quote from as little as sixty dollars a year. Not having to worry about maintenance relieves another financial burden.


Still, the option of renting is not enough to accommodate a growing population, especially since there are already too many people living on the street. Are there any solutions?


One oft-touted solution is a housing revolution that lowers the cost of homes. The theory is that homelessness is largely caused by a lack of affordable housing. Let’s see if this stands up to scrutiny.


Who makes up the homeless population?


Many people believe that the main reasons for homelessness are mental illness and addiction. And when you look at who makes up the homeless population, that makes sense. A huge proportion of people without homes suffer from mental illness and addiction.


This is true throughout the US. People are left homeless because they are unable to hold down jobs due to their health. They have no one to support them and are evicted from their homes.


In this context, the idea of ending homelessness with a housing revolution seems short-sighted. After all, cheaper housing will not cure mental illness or addiction.


However, research published in a 2022 book has revealed an interesting correlation.


The impact of the affordable housing crisis


Homelessness is a Housing Problem was written by two researchers, Gregg Colburn and Clayton Page Aldern. Through extensive research, they pinpointed the locations where homelessness was highest on a per capita level. They found that the extent of the problem of homelessness correlated with the price of housing.


In other words, states with the highest levels of homelessness had the most expensive housing. States with the lowest levels of homelessness had the most affordable housing.


Out of context, it would be easy to look at this research and conclude that the cause of homelessness was expensive housing. As such, affordable housing would solve the problem.


However, we cannot ignore the rates of mental illness and addiction among the homeless population. To some extent, mental illness and addiction among this population can be attributed to their tough situation. But the reality is that, in most cases, these individuals suffered from mental illness and addiction before becoming homeless.


The rational conclusion seems to be that mental illness and addiction do not cause homelessness on their own. If housing is affordable, people are more likely to find solutions before ending up on the street. If housing is particularly expensive, this is less likely.


What would a housing revolution look like?


It seems like a housing revolution could in fact relieve homelessness. But what would such a revolution look like? Could regulation on housing prices help?


Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. Housing prices are very much dependent on supply and demand. While state and federal organizations try to build affordable housing projects, these developments are often held up by resistance from homeowners in the pinpointed areas.


Any housing revolution would take a lot of coordination between governmental departments, as well as a huge push from non-profits. In our current economic climate, with people already fearing a housing crash and economic recession, this is unlikely.


The population in the US and around the world is growing, and we already lack affordable housing for everyone. A housing revolution may not be likely and would not entirely solve the problem of homelessness, but may happen out of sheer necessity. While some cities try to kick homeless people off the streets, they have to go somewhere, and eventually the issue will be impossible to ignore.

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