If New York metro rents grow five percent, 3,000 more people will be forced into homelessness

– Among large metros, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Seattle show the strongest relationship between rising rents and increased homeless population.

– A five percent increase in Los Angeles rents would lead to roughly 2,000 additional people experiencing homelessness.

– Houston and Tampa offer services that effectively disrupt the connection between rising rents and growing homeless populations.

Rising rents in the nation’s booming urban areas are creating crisis levels of homelessness that will continue or even accelerate as rents rise, Zillow® research has found. The connection between homelessness and increasing rents is especially strong in places that are already facing rapidly growing homeless populations: New York, Los Angeles, Washington, 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 Zillowi. 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 countii. 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 did not keep pace as rents grew, making paying the rent increasingly unaffordable. Seattle and Portland, Ore. have declared states of emergencyiii 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 homelessnessiv.

“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 York, Los Angeles, Washington, 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. Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, 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 Chicago, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Diego, Portland, Detroit, Baltimore, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Riverside.

Number of
People, 2016v
Total Number
of Homeless
People, 2016
Estimated Additional
Homeless People
with a 5% Increase in
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


Zillow® is the leading real estate and rental marketplace dedicated to empowering consumers with data, inspiration and knowledge around the place they call home, and connecting them with the best local professionals who can help. In addition, Zillow operates an industry-leading economics and analytics bureau led by Zillow’s Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. Dr. Gudell and her team of economists and data analysts produce extensive housing data and research covering more than 450 markets at Zillow Real Estate Research. Zillow also sponsors the quarterly Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey, which asks more than 100 leading economists, real estate experts and investment and market strategists to predict the path of the Zillow Home Value Index over the next five years. Launched in 2006, Zillow is owned and operated by Zillow Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:Z and ZG), and headquartered in Seattle.

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i Zillow worked with a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Statistics at the University of Washington for this analysis.
ii https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2446453/
iii http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2015/11/11/cities-states-turn-to-emergency-declarations-to-tackle-homeless-crisis
iv https://www.zillow.com/research/q1-2017-housing-affordability-15563/
v Counts come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD continuums of care were matched with the corresponding metropolitan areas.