For many Americans, finding affordable housing continues to be a challenge, whether you’re renting or buying. In today’s real estate market, many overpriced homes sit vacant while populations experiencing homelessness continue to grow.
In this study, United Way took a closer look at data from the US Census and the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) to compare the number of people experiencing homelessness to the number of vacant housing units in 100 major cities across the country.
Over 580,000 Americans are experiencing homelessness. There are currently 28 vacant homes for every one person experiencing homelessness in the US.
While cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle have some of the largest unhoused populations in the country, Detroit has the most vacant homes per unhoused person–116 empty homes per unhoused person.
Syracuse, New York has the second-most vacant homes per unhoused person–110 vacant homes per unhoused person.
San Jose, California has the highest population of Gen-Z youth experiencing homelessness with nearly 85 unhoused Gen-Zers for every 100,000 residents.
Pacific Islander and Black Americans are the populations most at risk to experience homelessness.
Sixteen million homes currently sit vacant across the US. In every state across the country, many homes remain empty while hundreds of thousands of Americans face homelessness. Vacant homes and buildings often succumb to the elements and deteriorate due to leaks, damage and general lack of maintenance before ever finding a buyer willing to pay their inflated prices. An abundance of vacant homes on the market are also attributed to rising rent and home prices.
While cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle have some of the largest unhoused populations in the country, Detroit has the most vacant homes per unhoused person–116 empty homes. This is a sobering insight given there are four to five vacant homes per unhoused person in cities like Oakland, California and Portland, Oregon. This disparity is not unique to Detroit, as many cities across the US have a significant number of vacant homes while also struggling with homelessness.
- Number of vacant homes per person experiencing homelessness: 37.83
- Number of vacant housing units: 20,695
- Number of people experiencing homelessness: 547.00
- Number of children under 18 experiencing homelessness (per 100k): 9.95
- Number of those 18-24 years old experiencing homelessness (per 100k): 1.91
- Number of families experiencing homelessness: 26.00
Every year, a significant number of young people in the United States experience some form of homelessness, although there are more than enough vacant homes to resolve the issue. According to the National Network for Youth, this problem disproportionately affects young people of color, with Black youth facing an 83% increased risk and Latino youth facing a 33% increased risk of homelessness compared to their white counterparts.
While the causes of homelessness and vacant homes are complex, it’s clear that addressing these issues will require a comprehensive and compassionate approach. Possible solutions to fight the disparity between the two include increasing funding for affordable housing and homeless services, implementing policies that address discrimination and systemic barriers, and finding innovative solutions to repurpose vacant homes to provide housing for those in need.
Need help now?
You can always dial 211 to reach the United Way’s “First Call for Help,” which lists organizations serving those needing assistance with housing, food, utility bills and other costs. It’s free and available in multiple languages.
Aura Home – Serves women veterans. St. Matthias Church Parish House, 1 Dundee St., (828) 771-6979. Did you know that of the 86,575 women vets in NC, over 12,000 are homeless? Aura Home offers housing for women veterans, as well as training for jobs, budgeting, reintegrating into society after the military and more. To volunteer or donate, go to www.aurahomewomenvets.com/volunteer.
Homeward Bound – Serves the unhoused. 19 N. Ann St., (828) 252-8883. Homeward Bound runs WNC’s day center, AHOPE, and has acquired The Days Inn at 201 Tunnel Rd. with plans to transform the 1960s-era motel into 85 units of permanent housing. To volunteer or donate, go to homewardboundwnc.org/home-is-key.
Trinity Place – Serves runaways and/or homeless youth. 12 Ravenscroft Dr., (828) 253-7233. Offers outpatient mental health services, respite services + foster care services. Donate and find other ways to help at eckerd.org/i-would-like-to/donate.
BeLoved Asheville’s Food Truck – Provides free meals and food to those in need via its “Mama’s Kitchen” food truck. BeLoved also offers street pantries. (828) 571-0766. Donate or volunteer at www.belovedasheville.com/get-involved.
Downtown Welcome Table – Serves lunch on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. until 12 noon, plus breakfast on Sundays from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Haywood Street Congregation, 297 Haywood St., (828) 575-2477. Donate at haywoodstreet.org/support.
Find a full list of resources at avltoday.6amcity.com/homeless-resources-asheville-nc.
*Source: United Way NCA, unitedwaynca.org/blog/vacant-homes-vs-homelessness-by-city.