National Homelessness Crisis Worsens. Americans Need Rent Control.

Housing Is A Human Right
3 min readJun 22, 2023

The Wall Street Journal published a disturbing report this week, revealing that the “number of homeless people counted on streets and in shelters around the U.S. has broadly risen this year.” At the same time, rents have skyrocketed and evictions have increased. It’s clear that Americans must be protected against predatory landlords through rent control.

The Journal reviewed homeless counts from across the country, finding that “more than 100 places reported increases in early 2023 counts compared with 2022.” Collectively, the newspaper added, “their numbers indicate the U.S. might see a sharper [homelessness] climb than in recent years.” In fact, it seems inevitable since data from New York City and Los Angeles — two cities with large unhoused populations — were not yet included in the Journal’s findings.

Homeless advocates told the newspaper that high housing costs and the end of temporary pandemic-era tenant protections, such as eviction moratoriums, were driving the worsening homelessness crisis.

Recently, a new study by the University of California San Francisco found that sky-high rents were fueling homelessness in California.

In addition, studies by Zillow, the real estate site, found that higher rents were causing more homelessness in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.

At the same time, corporate landlords have been charging excessive rents for years, including a cartel of corporate landlords who teamed up with RealPage, a computer software company, to wildly inflate rents in numerous cities. Congressional leaders have called for federal investigations into RealPage, and the company and many of its corporate clients have been slapped with more than 20 lawsuits by tenants.

It all adds up to one thing: Americans must have rent control.

High-profile studies published by the University of Southern California, UCLA, and UC Berkeley found that rent control will effectively stabilize the housing affordability crisis and prevent people from falling into homelessness. And activists have long said that rent control is the only way to rein in the runaway greed of corporate landlords and other predatory landlords.

For Housing Is A Human Right, rent control is a key part of a multi-pronged strategy called the “3 Ps”: protect tenants through rent control and other protections; preserve existing affordable housing, not demolish it to make way for luxury housing; and produce more affordable housing, including low-income and homeless housing.

But California and dozens of other states have statewide rent control bans, preventing cities and towns from passing new rent regulations or updating older rent control policies.

That’s why Housing Is A Human Right and its parent organization, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, are sponsoring the 2024 Justice for Renters Act. The statewide ballot measure will expand rent control in California, allowing local leaders to pass updated rent regulations. Activists in other states are also planning to end rent control bans.

Without rent control, backed up with more affordable housing, the nation’s homelessness crisis will only worsen — and more lives will hang in the balance. Americans need rent control.

Patrick Range McDonald, the author of this article, is the award-winning advocacy journalist for Housing Is A Human Right.

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Housing Is A Human Right

Housing Is A Human Right is the housing advocacy division of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. We fight for what’s right.