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UNH Research Ties Homelessness to Rental Housing Costs

The rate of homelessness in New Hampshire is among the lowest in the nation. (Dustytoes/Pixabay)
The rate of homelessness in New Hampshire is among the lowest in the nation. (Dustytoes/Pixabay)
December 14, 2018

DURHAM, N.H. – New research shows that while homelessness in the United States may be down overall, it's still rising in the most expensive rental markets. And New Hampshire has one of the lowest homeless rates.

Christopher Glynn, assistant professor of decision sciences at the University of New Hampshire, is one of the lead authors of the national Zillow-sponsored study. The researchers analyzed how people's share of spending on housing in each market correlates to homelessness – and Glynn says they found a specific economic tipping point.

"The thing that surprised us most was that, when a community exceeds 32 percent of its median income on its median housing cost, you see a sharp increase in the expected homeless rate in that community," says Glynn.

They found that troubling combination of high housing costs and high rates of homelessness in four eastern cities – Atlanta, Boston, New York and, Washington, DC – and in most metropolitan areas on the West Coast.

In New Hampshire, only about seven in 10,000 families is homeless. Glynn explains why he thinks New Hampshire's rate is better than in other places.

"One of the reasons that in most of the state, the homelessness rate is quite low is because New Hampshire has fairly affordable housing, and lower rates of poverty," says Glynn.

However, the National Alliance to End Homelessness says about 1,450 individuals and families in New Hampshire are homeless, and more than 3,000 students.

Glynn points to Houston, Texas, as a model city for addressing housing needs, by combining housing needs with other social services.

"Houston has been very successful in reducing its homeless population for the last six or seven years," says Glynn. “Houston has put a lot of emphasis on a program called Housing First. And they've been working to coordinate all their efforts across the city to be able to reduce the homeless population."

The study was done in partnership with Zillow, Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - NH