Study: Rent increases linked to homelessness

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

The committee to end homelessness in King County presented a study to local leaders Monday that showed that on average across the country, an increase of $100 in median rent corresponded to a 15 percent increase in the homeless population.

The study, published in the Journal of Urban Affairs, also named high population growth and low vacancy rates as factors for homelessness. The researchers looked at more than 300 cities and used federal data to arrive at their results.

Mark Putnam, the director of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County, said the homeless population in King County is counted once a year in January. In January 2015, there were 10,047 homeless people, compared with about 9,000 the year before.
Putnam said of those, the unsheltered people increased by 21 percent.

“It’s a little bit counterintuitive. You have a strong, booming housing market. And we have so many people that just – they can’t meet that threshold,” Putnam said.

At Mary’s Place, a shelter for women and families with children, Daisy Walter said she has been staying there for six months.

Walter, who cleans businesses for a living, said she has a Section 8 voucher. But the apartment complex that accepted them charged higher rent than the voucher would pay for.

“It really sucks, because it keeps us homeless yet even longer - when I have a way out, and I can’t get out,” Walter said.

At the same shelter, Neaomi Favro said she has been evicted twice for not being able to make rent.

In the first apartment, she said her rent increased by $200 a month, which she could not afford. Late payments eventually got her evicted. She went to stay with family.

Then after trying to rent on her own again, another increase forced her out a second time.

“It’s going to be twice as hard to get an apartment by myself, because of the evictions,” Favro said.

The Committee to End Homelessness has presented a strategic plan to various King County cities in attempts to limit homelessness to rare, brief and one-time experiences.

The Seattle City Council endorsed the plan Monday afternoon.

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