According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty:
“While many communities across the country are working to end homelessness, too few have adopted legal protections to help renters find, and stay in, housing. This report explores the links between housing instability and homelessness as well as the laws that can reduce housing instability. While increasing the availability of affordable housing is a necessary component of ending homelessness, it may not be sufficient if low-income families and individuals are not able to access and keep stable housing. Legal protections can help increase housing stability and reduce homelessness.
The United States faces a crisis of homelessness in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the country. The leading cause is the unavailability of housing, particularly rental housing, that is affordable to low-income families and individuals. Federal funding to support affordable housing was sharply decreased in the early 1980s and has not recovered—helping to create the modern phenomenon of homelessness, with high numbers of people experiencing chronic or sporadic homelessness each year.
Currently, only 25 percent of those poor enough to be eligible for housing assistance receive it. Meanwhile, wages have stagnated or fallen, and other social safety nets have shrunk. As the overall number of low-income renters has increased over the years, the availability of affordable housing in the private market has also decreased. As recently documented in Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond’s best-selling book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, this has led to high rates of housing instability, evictions, and difficulty finding housing—any of which can be a proximate cause of homelessness.”
Can stronger legal protections for renters help address the crisis of homelessness?
While more data and research is needed, existing studies indicate that stronger renters’ rights help prevent and end homelessness. If you are a legal professional concerned about homelessness and poverty near you, you can help be:
- Spending time learning about the rights of renters in your area;
- Offering your time to help advice renters in need of access to counsel;
- Working pro bono for a renter in eviction court;
- Recommending that local, state, and the federal government stabilize rental housing for low-income persons by strengthening renters’ rights laws.