Record Number Of Americans Are Homeless As Rent Climbs: Report

The homeless population is about 48% higher than in 2015.
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: A homeless man sleeps under an American Flag blanket on a park bench on September 10, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. As of June 2013, there were an all-time record of 50,900 homeless people, including 12,100 homeless families with 21,300 homeless children homeless in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A record number of well over half a million Americans are homeless as rents continue to surge, a new report finds.

About 653,000 people reported being homeless in January of last year, according to a report released Thursday by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

That’s up about 12% from the same time the previous year in 2022, the largest single-year increase ever recorded, the report says. About 71,000 more people were homeless last year than the year before.

Even more striking, last year’s number was about 48% higher than the homeless population in 2015.

Sky-high rent prices and inflation are partly to blame, along with the end of pandemic relief, such as eviction protections.

“Rapidly rising rents, combined with wage losses in the early stages of the pandemic, have underscored the inadequacy of the existing housing safety net, especially in times of crisis,” the Harvard report said.

The median rent in the U.S. was $1,964 in December, 23% higher since the pandemic, according to

The rental market is cooling, but rent prices are still much higher than they were pre-pandemic, and wage growth has not kept up.

Median weekly wages grew only 1.7% between 2019 and 2023, government figures show.

People earning between $45,000 and just under $75,000 a year saw the biggest increase in newly “cost-burdened” renters, according to the report.

In 2022, about 41% of those renters were spending between 30% and 50% of their monthly pay on housing. That’s a 5.4 percentage point increase over how many spent this much before the pandemic, and nearly double how many people did back in 2001.

Meanwhile, low-cost rental units are disappearing. More than half a million apartments with rents under $600 disappeared between 2019 and 2022.

Arizona, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas were some of the places that saw the biggest rise in homelessness due to spiking housing costs.


In California and Washington state, both of which have a chronic homelessness problem and overburdened shelters, the issue has gotten worse.

Homelessness increased 9% in Los Angeles County in 2023, totaling an estimated 75,000 people. About 38,000 people are homeless in the Bay Area on a given night. That’s up 35% since 2019. More than 7,000 people are homeless in San Francisco itself.

Crime and open-air drug use often accompany the homeless issue, causing businesses to flee San Francisco’s downtown, where foot traffic has thinned. The deadly fentanyl epidemic, in particular, has ravaged the Bay Area as well as other cities, including New York and Philadelphia, which also struggle with homelessness.

In Washington, the number of homeless people rose 11% to 28,036 last year, although that is likely an undercount, according to state data.

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