HUD says homelessness declined in 2021

Data reports show surge in homelessness was averted during COVID-19 national emergency: Two new HUD reports suggest that federal relief prevented a rise in evictions and homelessness during the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released new research and data showing that, despite historically high housing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of sheltered homelessness declined in 2021. HUD experts and independent research suggest that pandemic relief efforts prevented a potential surge in evictions and housing instability and temporarily reduced homelessness during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an article published today in HUD’s online magazine, the PD&R Edge, HUD experts also outline key lessons from past research about how the federal, state and local governments can work together to prevent and end homelessness.

The Executive Summary of the biennial Worst Case Housing Needs report, published recently, analyzes data from 2021 and estimates that 8.53 million renter households had “worst case needs” in that year, the highest number since HUD started estimating these needs in 1978.

Households with worst case needs are defined as renter households with very low incomes (incomes at or below 50 percent of area median income) who do not receive government housing assistance and pay more than one-half of their income for rent, live in severely inadequate conditions, or both. Much of this increase was driven by rising rents and severe cost burdens faced by many low-income families as the rental market tightened.

Despite these trends, HUD’s Annual Homelessness Assessment Report: Part 2 for FY21, published last month, shows that fewer people entered a shelter program in 2021, and sheltered homelessness overall decreased by 17 percent between 2019 and 2021.

In an article in HUD’s online magazine, the PD&R Edge, HUD leaders summarize the research and suggest that federal interventions, including the Emergency Rental Assistance program, eviction moratoria, income supports like stimulus payments, the enhanced unemployment insurance, and the enhanced Child Tax Credit, the federal government helped prevent a worsening of homelessness and evictions.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress were able to prevent millions of people from experiencing evictions and housing loss. We were able prevent a spike in homelessness during the height of the pandemic,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “While we didn’t solve the challenge of homelessness – only ensuring an adequate supply of affordable housing and access to supportive care can do that – these data provide valuable insights about how we address homelessness and ensure every person has a safe and stable place to call home.”

Building on best practices and evidenced-based research, the Biden-Harris Administration has deployed historic resources in 2023 to address the crisis of homelessness. Earlier this year, HUD released a first-of-its-kind package of grants totaling $486 million and approximately 3,300 housing vouchers to help 62 communities address unsheltered homelessness and homeless encampments.

In addition, through the ALL INside initiative, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and its 19 federal member agencies will partner with state and local governments to strengthen and accelerate local efforts to get unsheltered people into homes in six places: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix Metro, Seattle and the state of California.