Photo: David Lee/Flickr
A new study completed by economists at Zillow in collaboration with University of Washington postdoctoral researcher Christopher Glynn, found a definitive link between rent increases and the homeless population in Seattle.
For each of the 25 major metro areas, Zillow investigated the relationship between increases in the Zillow Rent Index and increases in the homeless population. They found that among large metros, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC show the strongest relationship between rising rents and an increased homeless population.
In Seattle, the Zillow research shows that a five percent average rent increase in 2016 would have translated to 258 additional people experiencing homelessness, bringing the total to 12,498 individuals.
Nationally, at least 550,000 people experienced homelessness for at least one night in 2016. That figure is based on local counts compiled by the U.S. Department of Urban Housing and Development. Zillow used statistical modeling to improve these estimates, then created a framework for investigating how changes in rent would affect the size of the homeless population. Given that logistics and expenses prevent metros from conducting more counts of homeless populations each year, this research also offers a statistical way to generate hypothetical additional counts every year.
Organizations like Mary’s Place in Seattle are taking steps to shelter the growing homeless population in the city. Amazon is currently building a 47,000 square foot shelter for Mary’s Place with 65 rooms to house more than 200 homeless women, children and families as part of their new development in Denny Triangle.
Mayor Ed Murray has taken steps to address the crisis, including declaring a state of emergency and bringing in a special consultant. As his term comes to an end and a new Mayor takes the reins in November, perhaps a successful strategy to get people in Seattle off the streets and into housing will finally surface.