6 Housing

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter you will be able to:

  • Identify the housing tenure sectors
  • Explain the causes and solutions to housing affordability issues
  • Consider the impacts of different generations of rent control strategies
  • Explore how the definition of homelessness affects our understanding of this issue
  • Understand the structural and proximate causes of homelessness
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of common solutions to homelessness

In this chapter, we will explore some of the key housing problems facing cities today. We begin by identifying the different ways that housing can be produced and distributed. Next, we’ll discuss how housing markets operate and consider the housing affordability problem. Then, we will examine the issue of homelessness. We define it, explore its causes, and introduce some possible solutions.

Housing Tenure Sectors

Housing tenure sectors are broad categories that classify the ways in which housing is produced and distributed in a society.[1] Housing can be privately constructed by individuals, groups, for-profit or nonprofit companies, or it can be publicly built by the government or by a quasi-governmental agency, such as a housing authority. The public and private tenure sectors are further differentiated by how housing is acquired by a prospective resident. Housing can either be purchased or leased on the open market, or a prospective resident can meet non-market qualifications to obtain their housing, like having an income below a certain threshold or holding a specific status or position, such as being a member of the military, a student, or having a disability. The “non-market” descriptor is a little misleading, since most occupants of this type of housing still pay to live in their residence.

When these descriptors are combined, they result in three main housing tenure sectors: private sector/market-based, public sector/non-market-based, and private sector/non-market-based.[2] The public sector does not produce housing for profit, therefore there is no public sector/market-based form of tenure. There are many variations within each of these general sectors. One major distinction within a sector is an individual’s relationship to their housing. The two main types of individual housing tenure status are homeownership and rental. For example, Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization in the United States, is part of the private, non-market-based housing sector. They sell homes to low-income families who are below a certain income threshold and contribute 300 hours of sweat equity helping to construct Habitat homes.[3] The qualifying family will be responsible for paying the mortgage on their Habitat-built home and will own the property, meaning they can pass it down to their heirs or sell it, if they choose. Not all residents living in privately-built, non-market based housing own their homes. Many are renters. 

Housing Tenure Sectors

(Purchased or leased on the open market)


(Need to meet qualifications in order to purchase or lease)

Private Sector

(Individuals, companies, or non-profits produce housing)

Public Sector

(Government or quasi-governmental agency produces housing)



In the United States, 90% of housing is market-based and privately constructed.[4] The remaining 10% is non-market-based and publicly or privately built. This includes public, nonprofit, and military housing. There are 1.1 million units of public housing, which were federally funded but were built and are managed by 3,000 local housing authorities. To qualify to live in public housing, an applicant must make less than 80% of the median income for their area, and 40% of public housing units are set aside for the lowest-income residents, those making less than 30% of the median income. Local housing authorities can also add other preferences for their buildings, such as being elderly, disabled, or a veteran. The U.S. public housing program began in 1937 and continued to expand the number of units it built and managed up through the 1980s, reaching a peak of 1.4 million units in 1994.[5] Public ownership and management of housing fell out of favor during the 1980s and was replaced by policies that favored the private/non-market and private/market-based sectors, like the Section 8 vouchers, which low-income residents can use to subsidize the cost of their private-market rental housing.

Not all countries are as heavily skewed toward private, market-based sector. In Singapore, 90% of residents live in public sector housing.[6] This highly developed public housing sector was established after Singapore became independent from the British. When the city-state gained self-rule in the 1950s and independence in 1965, it embarked on an ambitious housing development program aimed at improving the living conditions of its residents, many of whom were living in substandard, self-built dwellings. Providing affordable and safe housing became a cornerstone policy for the People’s Action Party, which has ruled the country since 1959. It is politically unthinkable in Singapore to oppose the goal of universal housing.

Much of the land in Singapore is state-owned, which makes it easier to plan and implement a universal housing program.[7] The Housing and Development Board (HDB), which constructs the mostly high-rise modern apartment units, began selling housing to qualified Singaporeans in 1964. All working citizens contribute a mandatory percentage of their income to an employer-matched, tax-exempt account called the Central Provident Fund. This is their retirement savings account. When a Singaporean purchases a unit from the HDB, the monthly mortgage payment is deducted from their retirement account, which means that they effectively maintain their same level of take-home pay. However, to qualify to purchase a home, the household must show that they can afford the cost and still save for retirement. Over time, the HDB has created additional programs to increase access to housing. One grant provides low-income families with enough money to cover up to 75% of the purchase price. Another pays a bonus into the retirement account of elders who downsize and move into a smaller unit once they are no longer working. As a result of these housing policies, 80% of Singaporeans who acquire their housing through the public sector own their unit.

The public sector housing program allows the Singaporean government to control housing prices and keep them affordable, which in turn, keeps wages relatively low.[8] Since housing costs do not reduce take-home pay, companies, many of which are also state-owned, can pay workers less, which makes them competitive in the global market. In addition, housing policies incentivize workers to find and maintain steady jobs and to increase their levels of personal savings.

As seen in the case of Singapore, providing large-scale access to housing can have an impact on broader economic policy. Universal housing policy with an emphasis on homeownership in Singapore redefined workers’ relationship to employment and increased the nation’s competitiveness in the global marketplace. In the U.S., federal policies began encouraging homeownership in the 1930s and ‘40s.[9] As a result of these policies, the U.S. transitioned from being a majority renter population in the 1940s to becoming a majority homeowner society in the 1960s. For individuals, homeownership is one of the largest sources of personal wealth.[10] Wealth refers to the total assets that a household owns (for example, a home, stocks, or a business) minus the debt they owe. For middle and lower-income households in the U.S., buying a home is the most common way of accumulating wealth, while upper-income households are more likely to gain wealth by purchasing stocks or owning a business. Your home or other forms of wealth can be sold or borrowed against to gained additional money for unexpected expenses or to get capital to open a business, purchase another house, make home improvements, or fund a family member’s education. In addition, the housing market plays a critical role in the U.S. economy. Housing makes up more than 20 percent of the gross domestic product in the U.S.[11]

In the U.S., homeownership is associated with independence, security, and freedom. Homeowners can make changes to their unit without having to seek out a landlord’s permission. They also have some protection against rising housing costs, especially if they have a fixed-rate mortgage where payments are guaranteed to remain the same throughout the life of the loan. Homeowners have more security, since they can’t be evicted or have a lease terminated due to landlord turnover. However, owning a home also comes with responsibility and additional costs. Repairs, maintenance, property taxes, and bills can make homeownership more burdensome for people who with low or fixed incomes. Owning a home also keeps you tied to place, and it can be more difficult to make sudden, necessary moves.

Additionally, not all communities have equal access to homeownership opportunities. Historically, the U.S. housing market was characterized by segregation and discrimination. Both this legacy of discriminatory housing policies and the persistence of bias in the real estate industry have led to wide racial gaps in the homeownership rates. In 2020, 73.7% of white households owned their own home, while only 44% of black households, 48.9% of Latino households, and 59.1% of Asian/Pacific Islander households were homeowners.[12] The lack of access to homeownership, which is the most accessible way to build wealth in U.S. society, has led to a pernicious racial wealth gap. The median white household owns more than 10 times what the median black household does and nearly seven times what the median Latino household owns.[13] When last measured, in 2000, the median wealth for white families was fifteen times that of Native American households.

While the wealth gap in Germany is high by European standards, wealth is far less concentrated there than it is the U.S. Although Germany also has one of the lowest homeownership rates in Europe, its relatively large wealth gap is not attributed to housing policies. Instead, the growth of single person households, changing labor conditions and the resulting income gaps helps fuel inequality.[14] Germany also lacks a wealth tax and is home to many medium-sized corporations that accumulate large sums of money, which is used to reinvest in the company.[15]

The low rates of homeownership in Germany are not viewed as problematic. In large German cities, more than 75% of residents are renters.[16] In 1971, Germany instituted strict tenant protections.[17] Landlords can only evict tenants with cause, and they must provide three months’ notice. The Rent Regulations Act limits how much landlords can increase an existing tenant’s rent each year. Many tenants live in buildings that are cooperatively owned or managed, rather than run by a private owner. As a result of these strong tenant protections, renting isn’t stigmatized in Germany. Many Germans prefer the flexibility that renting provides and associate homeownership with having children and a long-term career. Homeownership is not viewed as a means to generate wealth, nor is it necessarily seen as a step up from renting.

Cooperative Housing

Cooperatives (co-ops) are housing that is collectively owned. Housing co-ops are often multi-family buildings, but the model can also be applied to individuals who live together in a single family home. Members of a co-op purchase a share in the building, rather than just their own individual unit. Co-op members make collective decisions about how their building is managed and maintained. In large co-ops this might entail electing a board. In smaller buildings, residents might all share the responsibility for running the building.

Cooperatives are more popular in European countries than in North America. In Scandinavia, nearly a quarter of housing units are cooperatively owned. In the United States, only 1% of households live in co-ops. They are most popular in New York.

Some cooperatives are limited-equity co-ops, which means the amount of profit a member can make by selling their share is capped. By limiting the resale price, the co-op stays permanently affordable.

Hilary Silver, “Cooperative Housing,” in The Encyclopedia of Housing, 2nd edition, ed. Andrew T. Carswell, (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012) 102-107.

Steven Soifer, “Limited Equity Cooperatives,” in The Encyclopedia of Housing, 2nd edition, ed. Andrew T. Carswell, (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012) 426-427.


While renting and homeownership in either the public or private sectors are the predominant types of housing tenure in cities in Europe and North America, in much of the rest of the world, a sizable portion of homes are self-built on land that is occupied by squatters. Squatting means taking possession of an unoccupied building or piece of land without the owner’s permission for long-term use.[18] It is estimated that there may be up to one billion squatters worldwide. In the cities in the Global South, the typical squatter builds their own home on a piece of land that they have occupied with other families. These squatted neighborhoods are often referred to as “informal settlements.” You read about some of the challenges these communities face in Chapter Two. In the cities of the Global North, squatters are more likely to occupy abandoned buildings, which they sometimes rehabilitate to make more livable. Squatting in many European cities is associated with autonomous political movements where squats not only provide housing, but also nurture alternative ways of living and served as sites of political resistance.

Regardless of the form squatting takes, it is driven by a lack of access to housing.[19] In other words, it is a result of the failure of the private market and the government to provide an adequate and affordable supply of safe, habitable housing. People squat because they have no viable alternative to securing housing. Squatting is a way of making do.

Squatting can also be thought of as a process.[20] When squatters first occupy a plot of land or a building, they usually construct a simple, temporary shelter or make minimal repairs, because their situation is tenuous. As time goes on, squatters will improve the space, and makeshift housing will be replaced by more permanent structures. As the inhabitants are able to save more money, they may build additional rooms or add a second story to their home. Over the long term, families might add a separate wing for their adult children and their families. A study of informal settlements in Bogotá, Colombia, and Mexico City found that 30 years after these neighborhoods were initially squatted, 80% of the homes were occupied by the original builders or their children, and structures had been added to and improved. [21] This process of making home improvements over time is often associated with informal neighborhoods in the Global South, but the same process plays out in squatted buildings and communities in North American and European cities too. Dignity Village, a tiny home community located near the airport in Portland, Oregon, was initially established in 2000 as a roving tent city. A group of homeless Portlanders pitched tents on a piece of publicly owned land under a bridge downtown and called their community Camp Dignity.[22] When they got evicted, they moved their homes and belongings to another piece of public land. After a number of moves, the city agreed to provide the roving tent city with a semi-permanent space on city-owned land near the airport. The community pitched their tents and started construction on individual tiny homes. Today, the village provides homes to 60 people, and it has communal gardens, a shared kitchen building, showers, and workspaces for microbusinesses.

In addition to transitioning from temporary to more permanent structures, over time, squatters may also gain more security and access to infrastructure and services over time. The process of making public investments and bringing infrastructure and services to informal communities is known as upgrading. The first upgrading programs started in Latin America and spread around the globe in the 1960s and 1970s.[23] In Indonesia, the Kampung Improvement Program was launched in Jakarta in 1969. In its first five years, the city was able to build roads, extend water, sewage and waste pick up, and provide health and education services to 1.2 million people living in informal settlements, and it cost only $13 per person. [24] Upgrading initiatives may also include granting title to squatters, especially if the land they built on is publicly owned. In New York City in the 1970s and 1980s, a homesteading movement emerged in the South Bronx and on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.[25] The city was in a major fiscal crisis; it was losing population to suburbanization, and housing abandonment was a serious issue in low-income neighborhoods. Neighbors organized takeovers of empty tenement buildings and began fixing them up. Eventually, the city launched a homesteading program that granted squatters titles to the buildings they occupied and provided money to buy materials to make repairs. In the Lower East Side, more than 30 buildings were homesteaded and turned into low-income housing cooperatives until federal funding for the program was cut.

Squatting can also be thought of as both a result of and a response to urban precarity.[26] Precarity is a term used to describe the tenuous economic and social conditions that exist in 21st century capitalist nations. As workers are increasingly employed in the gig economy and other temporary arrangements, their ability to find and maintain stable housing is jeopardized. Squatting can be seen as a viable alternative to having to make expensive housing payments each month, so it is a result of the increasing precariousness of urban life. Squatting is also a response to precarity. Squatting often involves groups of people working together to create solutions to their situation. Whether it’s an informal neighborhood or an urban homestead, the act of collectively producing shelter challenges the individualist isolation and the precariousness of modern urban life.

Housing Markets and Shortages

In countries like the United States, where the bulk of housing is produced and distributed in the private market, the cost to rent or purchase a home is affected by the dynamics of supply and demand. Only 1-2% of the housing on the market in any given year is new construction, so most housing is bought, leased or sold, and resold multiple times during its lifespan.[27] The price of new or existing homes is determined by a number of different factors. If there is increased demand for housing, due to an influx of population in a particular city, prices will rise. Having access to credit or lower interest rates can also help drive housing demand as the ability to purchase a home becomes more accessible and the cost of obtaining a loan more affordable. If the demand to purchase homes increases, some landlords might sell their rental properties or convert them into condominiums. As the supply of rental housing shrinks, prices might rise. If there is a high vacancy rate, meaning a number of apartments or rental homes are sitting empty, landlords might lower the price to attract tenants.

Housing shortages can cause prices to skyrocket. During World War I, New York and other cities experienced a severe housing shortage.[28]  In the years leading up to the war, there was a large influx of immigrants into the city, and New York passed the Tenement Law, which introduced building codes designed to improve the quality of housing. Apartment construction boomed. By 1916, more than 40% of apartments had been built after 1903. The production of new housing easily offset the housing that was demolished to comply with the standards set by the Tenement Law. Renters were able to move into better housing, and landlords began to offer incentives to attract and retain tenants. When there is a glut of rental housing, the production of housing begins to decline. The decline in housing construction coincided with the start of the war. As wartime production increased, the cost of building materials rose, construction laborers were in short supply, and war workers flooded into the city. The units that had been empty just a few years before quickly filled. Construction virtually stopped, leading to a severe housing shortage in the following years.

When housing is in short supply, like it was in New York, the price rises. Landlords can afford to be choosier about who they rent to and may demand large deposits or long leases. Renters might end up living in housing that is overcrowded, substandard, or not meant for year-round living. While the New York City housing shortage was caused by unique historical circumstances, restrictions in housing supply still occur. It is fairly common to see prices skyrocket after natural disasters, especially if a large portion of the housing stock is temporarily uninhabitable or destroyed. Housing shortages can also be caused by a sudden influx in population due to an industrial boom, which has happened in the North Dakota oil and gas fields.

Fluctuations in supply or demand are not the only determinant of housing costs. Starting in the mid-1990s, the cost of housing across North America and Europe rose faster than inflation, even doubling in some places in just 10 years.[29] This global increase in housing costs wasn’t due to changes in supply or demand, but rather to the transformation of how housing was financed and commodified. The subprime mortgage market provided high-risk loans to people who did not qualify for traditional mortgages. Subprime lenders also aggressively marketed their products to low-income, Black, Latino and elderly homeowners, many of whom actually qualified for lower-risk traditional mortgages. In addition to subprime lending, new financial products called mortgage-backed securities were created, sold to investors, and traded in the financial markets. Mortgage-backed securities are a type of bond that consists of bundles of real estate loans sold by the banks and brokers who issued them. Investors who purchase these securities get payouts, which are based upon the mortgage holders’ monthly payments. When banks and brokers can sell their loans, they have less incentive to make sure that the lender can repay them, since they are essentially passing the risk of default on to the investors.

As housing and home loans became investment opportunities, prices soared.[30] Housing costs had once followed the same trajectory as wages. If wages rose, demand for housing increased, but if they remained stagnant, buying power decreased and demand dropped. As real estate become an investment opportunity disconnected from actual buyers and sellers, prices no longer reflected homeowners’ wages. Over the past few decades, housing costs far outpaced the rate of inflation.

Housing Affordability

Housing costs may rise or fall, but the cost alone doesn’t predict housing affordability. The concept of affordability considers how paying for housing impacts one’s ability to purchase other goods and services. Since housing is a durable good that cannot easily be traded in for a cheaper option, and it is usually the first bill a household prioritizes, measures of affordability consider the relationship between housing and all other basic needs. In the United States, banks, landlords, and government agencies will examine an applicant’s income to housing cost ratio when they are making decisions about whether someone qualifies for housing.[31] Most housing providers and lenders use a 30% rule when determining whether an applicant can afford to pay for housing. In other words, housing should cost no more than 30% of one’s pre-tax income. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) considers anyone who spends more than 30% of their income on housing as “cost burdened,” and those who spend more than 50% of their income on housing as “severely cost burdened.” According to HUD, households with the worst case housing needs are those who are both “severely cost burdened” and who are very low-income income earning less than 50% of the median family income in their community.

Taking into account the total amount of income a household earns is important when identifying those who have the worst-case housing needs. Families who spend a large percentage of their income on housing but have a large overall income may not struggle to pay their rent or meet their basic needs. Defining housing affordability simply by the percentage of income one pays for housing may not accurately measure the impact that housing costs have on people’s ability to pay for food, transportation, education and other needs.[32] The residual income approach looks at the amount of income a household has to spend after housing costs are subtracted. Michael Stone uses the residual income approach to measure “shelter poverty.” Shelter poverty is when a household cannot meet their basic needs due to a limited income and unaffordable housing costs. To measure shelter poverty, the amount of income households of various sizes would need to meet all of their basic expenditures is calculated. The percentage of income left over is the percentage that the household could affordably spend on housing. If a household is spending more than they can afford, they are considered to be shelter poor. Since 1970, the percentage of U.S. households that were shelter poor has fluctuated between 30-36%.

This is roughly the same percentage of households who are considered cost burdened under HUD’s measure of housing affordability. In 2020, approximately 45% of all renter households were cost-burdened.[33] Households of color were disproportionately likely to be paying more than 30% of their income for rent. Fifty four percent of Black renter households, 52% of Latino renters and 44% of white and Asian renters were cost-burdened. If the shelter poverty measure is used, 50% of renter households and 25% of homeowners are shelter poor.[34] While the overall numbers of households that are cost-burdened and shelter poor are approximately the same, the makeup of those groups differs. When the shelter poverty measure is used, the population struggling with housing affordability includes more families with children and fewer couples and single-person households. Latino households are most likely to be shelter poor, followed by Black families, Asians, then whites. Women and female-headed households are also more likely to be shelter poor. For homeowners, single mothers and the elderly make up a disproportionate share of the shelter poor.

National and local governments can address housing affordability issues by increasing the supply of affordable options or by reducing demand for lower-cost housing. Affordable housing policies can be directed towards the public or private sector. On the supply side, the state can produce low-cost housing to increase the availability of affordable options. Public or social housing refers to units that are constructed, owned, and managed by a government housing authority. In the United States, the large-scale production of public housing began with the 1949 Housing Act.[35]

This act authorized urban renewal or the wholesale clearance of dilapidated neighborhoods and created the public housing program as a replacement option for demolished units. Although the Housing Act aimed to produce 810,000 units within six years, that goal wasn’t met until 1968. Construction of public housing continued for a few more decades reaching a peak of 1.4 million units in 1994. Since then, the number of public housing units has declined. By the mid-1980s, public housing fell out of favor with lawmakers who instead opted to fund demand-side housing programs like the Section 8 subsidy. The number of public housing units has steadily declined since the 1994 peak, and the new construction has been limited to replacing units that were demolished as part of public housing redevelopment programs.

One of the major impetuses for developing public housing projects in the United States was to improve the overall quality of housing. In 1920, only 1% of housing units in the U.S. had indoor plumbing and electricity.[36] By 1970, plumbing and electricity were nearly universal. In Europe, housing shortages were one of the primary motivators for initiating a public or social housing program. Cities were devastated by World War II, and many European governments launched large-scale social housing programs to respond to housing shortages.[37] Unlike public housing in the U.S., European social housing was not limited to people with the lowest incomes. Government-produced housing was made available to working and middle class families. In the Netherlands, Austria, and Scotland, 30% of all housing is social housing. In England, social housing makes up 20% of the housing stock. Denmark, Hungary and France continue to add publicly constructed units to their housing stock. Social housing is widespread in Asia. In Hong Kong, 30% of all units are publicly owned.[38] The Hong Kong government is able to produce low-cost housing because the state owns the land, which makes it easier to construct housing that is affordable. 

Substandard housing and affordability

Families struggling to afford housing sometimes find themselves living in unhealthy or dangerous conditions. Often the only housing that is affordable is in poor repair. The 1949 Housing Act aimed to provide a “decent home and suitable living environment for all.” In 1940, 30% of homes in the U.S. lacked indoor toilets. While nearly every home has indoor plumbing today, habitability problems persist.

Forty percent of U.S. homes have at least one serious issue: broken heating, holes in walls, problems with plumbing, insect or rodent infestation, leaky roof, falling plaster, crumbling foundation, radon, lead, mold, or missing smoke detectors. These conditions can cause physical health problems. More than 250,000 children have elevated lead levels, mostly due to exposure in their homes. Mold, roach infestations, and poor ventilation can contribute to asthma, which affects 1 in 13 people in the U.S. Poor living conditions can also cause stress and anxiety.

People living in substandard conditions may lack the power and the resources to improve their housing. Homeowners may not be able to afford repairs. Renters may be afraid to ask their landlord to make repairs out of fear of losing their housing or having the rent raised. Housing habitability issues cannot be fully addressed without also dealing with issues of housing affordability and tenants’ rights.

Deborah Howe, “Substandard Housing,” in The Encyclopedia of Housing, 2nd edition, ed. Andrew T. Carswell (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012) 715-718.

National Center for Healthy Housing, United States 2020 Healthy Housing Fact Sheet, accessed on June 4, 2021, https://nchh.org/resource-library/fact-sheet_state-healthy-housing_usa.pdf.

While other countries have embraced publicly constructed housing as a strategy for providing affordable units to people of various income levels, the United States has moved away from supply-side solutions. Very little new public housing was built after the 1970s. Instead the government has focused on demand-side housing solutions. Over the past 50 years, the supply-side programs have focused on using tax credits and other subsidies to incentivize nonprofit and some for-profit developers to build and manage low-income housing. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), established in 1986 reduces the tax liability of housing developers who build affordable units or projects.[39] The credits can also be sold to investors who can use them to reduce their tax bills. The LIHTC has funded the development of more than 1.6 million units of affordable housing, which surpasses the number of public housing units. But this program has some major drawbacks. Units developed with tax credit financing can convert to market-rate housing after 15 years. Additionally, many of the lowest-income households cannot afford tax-credit housing unless they have some other kind of subsidy. Rent in public housing projects is capped at 30% of a tenant’s income, so if that tenant has very little income, they pay very little rent. In contrast, most LIHTC housing has a set rental rate that is supposed to be affordable to tenants making below a certain income threshold. If the tenant’s income is far below that threshold, they may end up paying much more than 30% of their income on rent for “affordable” housing.

Public sector interventions can help increase the supply of affordable housing, distribute housing to those most in need, and offset housing costs through subsidies, but governments can also impact housing affordability through private sector regulations, incentives, and taxation. Cities can encourage private sector housing production by streamlining the development process and by upzoning, or increasing the number of units allowed on a parcel of land.[40] When the supply of housing is increased, tenants and homebuyers can exert more influence over the price. If a landlord or seller sets the price too high, they may not be able to find an interested renter or buyer. In order to attract a buyer or tenant, the owner will have to lower the price. In addition, multifamily units like townhomes or apartments are less costly to produce than single family homes, since more units can be developed on a single parcel of land. This makes these options more affordable to renters and homebuyers. Cities can also incentivize the production of affordable housing by allowing homeowners to build accessory dwelling units on their lots. Accessory dwellings are independent housing units that are attached or detached from the main structure on a lot. Accessory dwellings are also called mother-in-law apartments, granny flats, or depending on their size, tiny homes. They can be stand-alone structures, garage or basement conversions, or additions to the main housing unit. Accessory dwellings can be more affordable than conventional units, and they encourage more intensive development of land parcels, which can help lower costs.

In addition to changing zoning regulations to allow for denser development, cities can also adopt inclusionary zoning programs. Inclusionary zoning programs require developers to produce a certain number of affordable units.[41] They usually require that at least 10-15% of units in a development over a particular size be made affordable to lower-income households. The program might also include incentives for builders to help offset the cost of developing affordable units. Offsets could include allowing more stories on multifamily buildings or waiving requirements like parking or development fees. This type of land use regulation can offset exclusionary zoning practices. Exclusionary zoning regulations might prohibit multi-family housing or require large lot sizes, which make housing less affordable and promote economic and racial segregation by pricing out lower-income households and households of color who are more likely to have lower incomes due to historic and ongoing discrimination.

Unlike public housing or LIHTC properties, units produced under inclusionary zoning programs are more integrated throughout a jurisdiction, which creates opportunities for low-income people to move into neighborhoods they might not otherwise have access to. However, the units produced under these programs may not necessarily be fully integrated into the overall development. They might be located in a separate building, and under some programs, developers are allowed to meet their obligations by funding the development of affordable units on a different site altogether. While inclusionary zoning programs are effective tools for increasing the affordable housing stock, these units are often priced too high for the lowest-income renters.

The final regulatory strategy that cities can use to keep housing prices affordable is rent control. Rent control can take many different forms. Early rent control programs put a hard cap on the amount of rent that landlords could charge.[42] Rent control was instituted in the United Kingdom in 1915 to curb housing cost inflation during World War I.[43] At the time, 90% of the British lived in private market housing. New York created its first rent control regulations in 1920 and expanded them in 1943 when World War II led to housing shortages and price inflation. These early rent control programs were intended to be temporary, but they lasted much longer than the housing crises they were designed to address.

These early rent control strategies are sometimes referred to as first generation rent control programs.[44] First generation rent control measures required landlords to keep rents below an established ceiling, except in specified circumstances. The New York program was designed to be temporary, but once soldiers returned home from World War II, housing shortages persisted, so New York kept its protections in place even as most other cities repealed their rent control programs. The New York City program placed a cap on rents in units built before 1947. Economists are highly critical of first generation rent control programs because the hard caps can result in housing market distortions. A study of rent controlled units in New York in 1968 found that they were listed at 40% below market rates. If landlords are unable to meet their costs and to profit, they have little incentive to keep units on the market, or they might stop doing basic maintenance or make necessary repairs. Rent control also incentivizes tenants to stay in a unit when they otherwise would move to find a more spacious place, to downsize, or to relocate to a more convenient neighborhood. This lack of turnover makes units unavailable to those who might need them and eventually results in a mismatch where the neediest tenants are unable to get a rent controlled unit, while some of those who are occupying them may be able to afford market rents. Finally, landlords may find ways around strict rent control laws by charging exorbitant “key fees” or pushing tenants out, if regulations allow for rent increases between tenancies.

These critiques do not necessarily apply to second and third generation rent control programs.[45] Second generation rent control programs are the dominant type of rent regulation in the United States today. These programs allow rents to rise each year by a certain percentage and let landlords raise them further to pass on the cost of repairs or upgrades to the unit. Third generation rent control strategies are used in parts of Europe and put caps on increases for the length of the tenancy, but allow the unit to be decontrolled when the tenants leave. These rent control strategies are more effective at controlling prices without creating disincentives for landlords to uphold their responsibilities.

Rent control also needs to be considered as part of a larger, overall housing regime. The concept of a housing regime refers to the ways in which housing is produced and distributed in a defined area and the ideologies that guide that system.[46] For example, in the United States, property rights are sacrosanct, home ownership is viewed as the desirable form of tenancy, and in general, the rights of landlords to profit often outweigh tenants’ protections, although tenants may have more rights in jurisdictions that have a high percentage of renters. In Norway, where homeownership rates exceed the United States, renters have far more protections. Norway’s push for homeownership was tied to a housing regime that viewed landlordism as a form of exploitation. In 1951, Norwegian Labor Party leader Trygve Brattelli spoke before Parliament and asserted that “owning other people’s homes as a field of private enterprise” was unacceptable. Norway subsidized and encouraged both single-family homeownership and cooperative ownership of multifamily properties. Tenants, despite making up a relatively small percentage of the population, have fairly strong protections. Three-year leases are common, and there are protections against large rent increases. The Swedish housing regime also gives more power to renters. Sweden’s homeownerships rates are similar to the U.S., but rents on multifamily units are set through negotiations between the Swedish Union of Tenants, publicly owned multifamily housing corporations, and private landlords. If the parties cannot come to an agreement on the appropriate price for a particular unit, a rent tribunal sets the price.


The word homeless evokes images of people sleeping on park benches, under bridges, or in makeshift camps along freeways, but coming up with a comprehensive definition to describe this situation is a far more complex task than it seems. People sleeping outdoors are obviously homeless, but what about those staying in a shelter? How about people who are able to scrape together enough money to pay for a motel for a few nights? What about those living in cars, at campgrounds, rest stops or in recreational vehicles? How about the young person who couch surfs and stays with different friends each night? What about the family that is living with relatives because they lost their housing? Are these people homeless?

The way in which homelessness is defined is culturally, socially, and politically constructed.[47] In Ghana, there is no word for homelessness in any of the country’s main languages. It is considered shameful for a family to allow one of their members to stay unhoused. Homelessness exists in Ghana, but the government defines it very narrowly. It only considers those living outdoors to be homeless. In many nations in Latin America and Africa, homelessness is defined as both lacking shelter and being outside of society (i.e. a drug user, criminal, or mentally ill). In India, rural migrants may be homeless in the city they work in, but they have a home back in their village.

Defining homelessness too narrowly can leave people out who do not have an adequate place to sleep at night. In Ghana, people who are living in shops or makeshift shelters would not be considered homeless under the government’s definition.[48] But defining it too broadly can obscure the issue and make it difficult to prioritize those who live under the direst of circumstances. For example, the South African Homeless People’s Federation, which is a grassroots coalition of people living in inadequate housing situations, includes people living in squatter settlements, shacks built on other’s lots in the townships, and staying in hostel accommodations in their definition of homelessness. Under this definition, one in five South Africans is considered homeless.

The United Nations Habitat program has recently revised its definition of homelessness.[49] The organization spent more than a decade updating its definition to make it more reflective of the global situation. The prior definition placed too much emphasis on the ways in which homelessness is manifested in the North American and European contexts and not enough on the rest of the world. The new definition recognizes that:

homelessness is not merely a lack of physical housing, but is often interrelated with poverty, lack of productive employment and access to infrastructure, as well as other social issues that may constitute a loss of family, community and a sense of belonging, and, depending on national context, can be described as a condition where a person or household lacks habitable space, which may compromise their ability to enjoy social relations, and includes people living on the streets, other open spaces or in buildings not intended for human habitation; people living in temporary accommodation or shelters for the homeless, and, in accordance with national legislation, may include, among others, people living in severely inadequate accommodation without security of tenure and access to basic services

Having a clear definition of homelessness is important. Without agreed upon criteria that reflects the variety of ways that homelessness is manifested across the globe, international organizations cannot measure the scope of the problem. It is estimated that between 100 million and one billion people worldwide experience homelessness. With the new definition, countries can begin to more accurately measure of how widespread the problem is.

The U.S. government defines homelessness as lacking a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”[50] This definition can be vague and different agencies within the U.S. government use more or less expansive versions of this definition to determine whether someone qualifies for services. The European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless (FEANSTA) uses a more holistic definition that includes four categories of homelessness. Rooflessness refers to those who are sleeping outdoors and have no shelter of any kind. Houselessness includes people who are staying in shelters or other temporary institutions. People with insecure shelter means those facing eviction, squatting, or living in an unsafe situations due to abuse or domestic violence. Finally, those living in inadequate housing includes people living in cars, caravans or campers, substandard or extremely overcrowded conditions.

The FEANSTA typology more fully captures the ways in which homelessness occurs in Europe and North America and also acknowledges how people cycle through these different categories. Many people who lose their housing do not immediately end up on the streets. They may first stay with friends or family. Once they wear out their welcome, they may spend a few nights in a motel, sleep in their car, or camp in someone’s backyard. When they run out of options or if they have no support system to provide them with a temporary place to stay, they turn to the shelters or the street.

The estimates of the number of people experiencing homelessness vary widely. Some of that variation is due to the conflicting definitions that homeless census takers use.[51] Simply tallying the number of people using shelter services or identifying those sleeping on the streets may not give you an accurate count of the numbers of people who lack adequate, permanent shelter.

In the United States, the issue of homelessness entered the public’s consciousness in the 1980s when due to economic recession and policy changes, people began visibly living on the streets in most major cities. The early attempts to count the number of homeless individuals relied upon data from shelter and services providers. In the 1990s, it was estimated that 450,000-850,000 people were homeless at any given point in time. This estimate only included those who were literally homeless and had accessed or attempted to access services.

In addition to narrow focus on the literal homeless, these point-in-time counts provide limited data about how widespread homelessness really is. In 1994, Dennis Culhane and a group of researchers looked at homelessness service providers’ data in Philadelphia and developed an estimate of the numbers of people who experience literal homelessness during the course of a year.[52] They discovered that 1% of the city’s population overall and 10% of those living in poverty cycled through the homeless shelter system at some point during the year. National estimates based upon Culhane’s methodology indicate that between 2.5 and 3.5 million people become literally homeless at some point during the course of a year, which represents 6.3%-9.6% of those living below the poverty line.

Estimating the number of people who experience homelessness over the course of a year provides a more complete picture of the scope and size of this problem. This annual projection captures the variation of people’s experiences. Some may be homeless for a brief time period, others may cycle in and out of homelessness, and a smaller subset may remain homeless during the entire year. However, it is more difficult to collect data over the course of an entire year. Even if service provider data is used, it would have to be disaggregated to determine the number of unique users. Due to these data collection difficulties, the point-in-time or one-night counts are now conducted annually in all major U.S. metropolitan areas. Most point-in-time counts today include both the number of people using homeless services and a one-night census of people living outdoors. Some cities employ dozens of census takers who attempt to count unsheltered people in downtown areas and residential neighborhoods. Despite the aforementioned limitations of these counts, they do provide a snapshot of literal homelessness in the U.S. and allow communities to track changes in the population over time.

In 2020, the national point-in-time counts found that 580,000 people were literally homeless in the U.S.[53] Sixty percent of those were staying in shelters or transitional housing and the remainder were unhoused. One quarter of those counted were considered “chronically homeless.” The term chronically homeless refers to individuals with physical or mental disabilities or addictions who have been continuously homeless for at least 12 months or who have experienced at least 4 episodes of homelessness in the past 3 years including one that lasted for at least a year. This term was devised by policy makers who wanted to identify the most difficult to house populations in order to focus resources on them. Compared to the overall literal homeless population, the chronic homeless are more likely to be unsheltered.

The annual point-in-time counts are not the only national census of homelessness in the United States. Every public school district in United States identifies students who qualify as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act, because they are eligible for specific protections and services.[54] During the 2018-2019 school year, almost 1.4 million children and youth in the U.S. public school system experienced homelessness. This number is far greater than the 580,000 people counted in the annual census, especially when considering that only 30% of those in the point –in-time counts were families with children.[55] One reason for the difference in these estimates is that the student counts capture homelessness over the course of the entire school year. But this alone doesn’t explain the large discrepancy between the two censuses.

The main reason for the large difference between the school district numbers and the annual point-in-time counts is the definition of homelessness that is used. The point-in-time counts only capture those experiencing literal homelessness – living in shelters or on the streets. School district personnel use a much broader definition of homelessness that includes people who are doubled-up with other households due to housing loss or economic hardship and those living in motels or hotels.[56] Seventy-seven percent of the students who were identified as homeless were living doubled-up with friends or family because they had lost their housing, and an additional 7% were living in motels or hotels.

Homelessness: a continuum of experiences

continuum of homelessness

Families with children and youth who are living on their own are more reticent to go to homeless shelters and will do anything to avoid having to live on the streets. Parents often worry that the state might take their children away if they do not have housing. So families who lose their housing are more willing to rely on friends or family for help. Unaccompanied youth, which refers to young people who are living on their own, might be concerned that if they seek services, they may be returned to an abusive or unsupportive household or be placed in foster care.

Unaccompanied youth only made up 1% of the national point-in-time homeless counts, but a recent comprehensive study of youth homelessness found that 700,000, or nearly 1 in 30, youth aged 13-17 experienced homelessness over the course of a year.[57] When the young adults aged 18-25 are included, nearly 10% had become homeless at some point during the year. Black, Latino, Native American, LGBTQ, and parenting youth were disproportionately likely to be homeless. Couch surfing, or staying temporarily with friends or family members, was a key strategy that homeless youth and young adults used to avoid going to shelters or sleeping on the streets. However, these arrangements are unstable, and many youth and young adults move around frequently, and some may cycle in and out of shelters or on or off the streets.

Like youth and young adults, women are also more likely to avoid homeless shelters, to hide their situation, and to stay out of the public view.[58] Women living in public spaces are vulnerable to sexual and physical assaults. One study found that 92% of mothers experiencing homelessness had been sexually or physically abused at some point in their lives.[59] Thirteen percent of women interviewed in another study reported being sexually assaulted within the last 12 months, and half of those had been assaulted more than once. Another research project found that nine percent of homeless women had been sexually assaulted within the last month. Women with mental illness who lack housing are especially vulnerable to sexual victimization. Ninety-seven percent of mentally ill homeless women had been victims of violence or sexual assault during their lives, and 28% report being physically or sexually assaulted within the last month.

To survive, many women hide their homelessness.[60] Women on the streets or in shelter represent just a fraction of the female homeless population. Women tend to stay in cars or with friends or family. Some may choose to stay in an abusive situation rather than live on the streets. Women may also find a partner on a nightly or longer term basis in order to avoid the streets. In some countries, there are no shelter spaces for women. In others, single women who are homeless may be stigmatized and ostracized, because they are not part of a male-headed household.

It is estimated that 22% of the homeless population in the U.S. is female, and women make up 10-33% of homeless population in European countries. Since women are more likely to be part of the “hidden homeless,” or those who are not visibly living on the streets or in shelter systems, it can be difficult to get an accurate count of the numbers of women who lack housing. In addition, if the definition that is being used to identify homeless people isn’t broad enough to encompass the ways in which women experience homelessness, they won’t show up in the statistics.

Overall, any attempt to quantify the number of homeless people on a global, national, or local level will only produce an estimate of the population that lacks adequate housing.[61] Definitions of homelessness need to be broad enough to capture the myriad ways in which different populations experience homelessness. Drawing conclusions about the size, scope, causes, or impacts of homelessness based upon the most visible populations can lead to assumptions that do not reflect the complexity of this issue.

The Causes of Homelessness

If you ask someone how they ended up staying in a shelter or living on the streets, they might tell you a story about a job loss, a bad relationship, a struggle with addiction, or a physical or mental health issue that led to their current situation. Are these situations the causes of homelessness? When thinking about the causes of homelessness, it is important to delineate between the proximate causes or the precipitating events that lead to someone losing their housing and the structural conditions that create homelessness.[62] The proximate causes can help shed light on the populations that are vulnerable to homelessness, but identifying the structural conditions that produce homelessness is necessary for finding lasting policy solutions.

Homelessness is produced when housing markets, labor markets and financial markets create grossly unequal outcomes.[63] Homelessness is also caused by the political failure to meet the needs of those left out of the housing or labor markets. If governments do not fill those gaps, people will be forced to find inadequate housing alternatives or live on the streets. In many cultures, extended family networks play a critical role in providing housing and support to their indigent kin. However, if a family’s resources are strained, they may not be able to provide for all of their members. In societies where extended family ties are de-emphasized and the nuclear family dominates, individuals who are at risk of becoming homeless have fewer resources they can rely upon. Therefore, family breakdown or social isolation can also contribute to homelessness. If someone does not have a strong social network and support system and their government ignores their needs, they could end up on the street.

In some parts of the world, housing markets simply fail to produce enough housing for the population. In 2002, India was in need of at least 19 million additional housing units. Sometimes, the market produces housing, but it is unaffordable for large swaths of the population. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, a two-room house leased on the private market would cost a family making the median wage their entire monthly salary. Seventy-five percent of Dhaka’s residents cannot afford to pay for the housing produced by the private market. In Bangladesh, the typical laborer spends 70% of their income on basic food and clothing needs, leaving little left over to pay for housing.

In places where private market housing is out of reach for large segments of the population, they have to rely upon alternative survival strategies like squatting unused pieces of land and self-building homes. Having insecure tenure rights makes people more vulnerable to homelessness, and informal settlement housing is often inadequate. In addition, informal settlements may lack access to potable water, sewage, or other utilities. These neighborhoods also might not be served by transportation networks or by public education systems. The United Nations Habitat updated definition of homelessness notes that a lack of “security of tenure,” “access to infrastructure,” and “basic services” are hallmarks of homelessness.[64]

In the United States, there are enough housing units to provide shelter for all households, but there is a major shortage of units available that are affordable to those with the lowest incomes.[65] Prior to the 1980s, the poorest urban residents could afford to rent basic housing. Most downtowns had skid row neighborhoods that contained concentrations of housing of last resort. Housing of last resort was often a single room occupancy (SRO) unit, which is a basic room with a shared bathroom down the hall that rents by the night, week, or month. Flophouses were even cheaper than SROs. Flophouses are communal lodgings where you can rent a bed for the night. Some flophouses are also known as cage hotels, because residents rent beds in a large open room that is divided into cubicles, which are separated from others by partial walls or chicken wire. In the 1970s, there was a surplus of these units, but many of these buildings were razed in downtown redevelopment projects, and by 1989, there was a shortage of more than 5 million units that were affordable to those with the lowest incomes. Currently, no state has an adequate number of rental units available that are affordable to the lowest-income households. In the most extreme cases, there is only 1 affordable unit available for every 5 low-income renter households, and even in the lowest cost housing markets, there are only 6 units available for every 10 households.

When people cannot afford to pay for private market housing, they make do in a variety of ways. In many parts of the world, people will self-build their homes on an unused piece of land.[66] In places where self-building one’s home is not an option, low-income people make do by doubling-up with friends or family, by renting inadequate housing options, or by spending significant portions of their paycheck on rent. All of these situations are unstable and put people at risk for homelessness. An argument with a friend or family member or an unexpected expense could potentially lead to a loss of housing. Living in a substandard unit could also pose a health or safety risk that might lead someone to lose their housing.

An array of different types of housing market failures lead to the production of homelessness, but this is just one side of the housing crisis equation. Labor market failures also play an important role. If workers are not paid enough to cover housing costs, it’s not just the housing market that is failing, the labor market is too. In much of the world, the majority of people work in the informal sector.[67] The informal economic sector refers to businesses that are unregistered and unregulated. These businesses can be based within a household, or they can be large-scale organizations. Informal sector workers have no legal protections and lack benefits, guaranteed employment contracts, and basic workplace rights. Informal workers labor in a wide variety of types of trades, from street vendors to garbage pickers to unlicensed construction workers to drug smugglers. According to the International Labor Organization, 60% of laborers, or more than 2 billion people worldwide, work in the informal sector.

While not all informal sector workers are impoverished, informal workers are more likely to be poor than their formal sector counterparts are.[68] Although informal work is more prevalent in rural areas, in many cities the majority of people are employed in the informal sector. In North America, only 18% of workers hold informal sector jobs, but in Latin America, 53% of workers are informally employed. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, 63% of workers are employed in the informal sector.

Informal sector work can be unpredictable and unreliable.[69] Common informal jobs like being a caterer, waiter, rickshaw driver, porter, or construction worker are either seasonal or customer dependent, so workers are not guaranteed regular hours or pay. Many informal workers have multiple jobs. Despite its unpredictability and comparatively low wages, people engage in informal employment, because they do not have access to formal employment opportunities. Having more education closely correlates to being employed in the formal labor market. People who have never attended school or are illiterate are far more likely to work in the informal sector. Women are less likely than men to be employed in the informal sector worldwide, but women in lower-income countries have higher rates of informal sector employment than men. The very young and the elderly are also more likely to work informal sector jobs.

Even with steady hours and pay, informal workers may not earn enough to pay for their basic living expenses. In Dhaka, the average informal worker only makes enough to pay for a meal and a bed in a communal lodging house. Some informal workers try to save money by not paying for housing. Homelessness can be a survival strategy, especially for those who migrate to cities and are working to support their family who remain in their rural community. Sixty percent of India’s urban homeless send money back to their villages.

Not all informal workers are homeless, and workers who hold formal sector jobs still might not make enough money to pay for housing, especially if they live in place with an expensive housing market. In the United States, people experiencing homelessness tend to have extremely low incomes. The average homeless individual made just 12% of the median income and earned a wage that put them at just 50% of the poverty line. With such low wages, it is nearly impossible to find affordable housing on the private rental market.

When housing and labor markets fail, the state can step in to provide income or shelter to those who are left out. The state can produce public sector housing that is affordable to those with the lowest incomes, or it can provide subsidies to purchase housing in the private market. The state can also provide welfare benefits to people with very low incomes or to those who are unable to work. In addition, the government can strengthen labor laws and raise the minimum wage to ensure that people who are working can afford to meet their basic needs.

The United States has a patchwork system of social service programs. As homelessness was becoming a major urban issue during the 1980s, the Reagan and Bush administrations were ushering in substantial cuts to housing and welfare programs.[70] Public and rural affordable housing programs were slashed deeply. Unlike food stamps or social security, the Section 8 housing voucher program is not an entitlement, meaning that the government does not guarantee funding for enough vouchers for all who qualify. As a result, only 24% of people who actually qualify for housing vouchers receive one. Those who fail to qualify can sit for years on a waiting list. Housing wait lists in many cities are closed, and people in need will have to wait for the list to periodically reopen. Some places hold lotteries to determine who will win a spot on the waiting list, because the need is so great.

Since housing programs are not sufficient to address the need, the government could provide cash assistance to low-income households to help fill the wage/housing gap, but cuts to welfare programs have made it difficult for poor individuals and families to access cash assistance.[71] Cash assistance programs mainly serve low-income families with children. The 1996 welfare reform legislation placed strict time limits on welfare recipients and added job search and training requirements. Prior to welfare reform, at least 20% of welfare recipients had been homeless at some point in their lives. As families’ cash benefits were terminated, states began to see an uptick in shelter usage. Unlike families with children, single adults rarely qualify for cash assistance. Most states used to offer general assistance, which was a monthly cash subsidy for low-income individuals, but now only 11 states offer assistance to able-bodied single adults. The amount of assistance is extremely low, ranging from $120 a month in Alaska to a high of $600 a month in Nebraska.

Politicians who pushed for welfare cuts and reforms insisted that poverty could be solved if people would work instead of receiving assistance. Not only does this political stance ignore the fact that many entry-level jobs do not pay enough to lift people out of poverty, but it also fails to take into account people who are unable to work. People with physical or mental disabilities may require long-term government support to meet their basic needs. The U.S. Social Security program provides monthly cash benefits to people of all ages who are too disabled to work. However, the benefit rate has failed to keep up with the cost of housing.[72] In Seattle, the cost of housing rose by over $600 in a five-year time period, but the average disability benefit had increased by only $50, leaving many households unable to find housing. The maximum individual disability benefit provides an income that is only 75% of the federal poverty rate, leaving recipients struggling to find affordable housing and, therefore, vulnerable to homelessness.

In many countries, the government does not have the revenue, capacity, and/or the political will to provide assistance to address housing and labor market failures. In countries that do not have a strong social welfare system, families often play a critical role in preventing homelessness among their kin. In Ghana, families traditionally lived in compound houses, which provide shelter for an entire extended family including in-laws.[73] In family compounds, members share kitchen and bathing facilities and contribute to household and agricultural tasks. Relatives in need of a place to live cannot be turned away from the family’s compound. However, compound life is not always easy. Interpersonal conflicts can drive family members away from the compound. Given the collective ownership rights of family members, disagreements might arise about who is responsible for upkeep and repairs. If the family faces economic hardship, collective ownership structures make it difficult to sell or borrow money against the property. Finally, women and their children can be kicked out of the family compound if their husbands dies or they divorce.

Women’s homelessness is caused by the same structural factors that impact men’s ability to obtain adequate shelter, but women face additional housing barriers due to gender discrimination.[74] In many countries throughout the world, women are paid less than men, which makes it even more challenging to afford housing. It’s not surprising that female-headed households have a higher risk of homelessness than male-headed households do. Women may also face housing market barriers. In some parts of the world, women are barred from buying property or obtaining loans, which can make it difficult for them to find housing if they do not have a male spouse or partner.

In addition, women may lose their housing if their male spouse or partner dies or divorces them. Women lack inheritance rights in many countries, so if their husband dies, his family might inherit their home, leaving the widow with no place to stay. In Kenya, 70% of all informal sector households are headed by single women. One quarter of those lost their prior housing when their spouse died. Even in countries where women have inheritance rights, a woman may be reluctant to take her husband’s family to court, because she may believe that the male-dominated court system will not rule in her favor. [75]

Throughout the world, women are subjected to domestic violence. In the United Kingdom, 13% of the homeless population lost their housing after they fled a violent partner. In the United States, statistics vary widely, with anywhere from one quarter to one half of all women seeking out homeless services reporting domestic violence as the precipitating cause. In New York, 80% of homeless mothers reported experiencing domestic violence at some point in their lives, and one third of all homeless families lost their housing due to intimate partner violence. Domestic violence exacerbates all of the other structural causes of homelessness. An abusive spouse or partner will attempt to control all aspects of a woman’s life, including preventing her from working, isolating her from her family and friends, and denying her access to bank accounts or credit cards. If she has no income and lacks a strong support system, a woman might stay in an abusive relationship to avoid living on the streets.

Children have even fewer rights than women do. The World Health Organization and UNICEF estimate there are more than 100 million homeless children worldwide.[76] UNICEF differentiates between children who are on the street and children who are of the street. Those who are on the street spend significant time working or playing on the streets of their city, but they have a home to return to at night. Children who are of the streets are literally homeless and are homeless on their own, not with an adult relative. This typology is somewhat simplistic, and it doesn’t account for the full range of homeless children’s experiences. For example, in India, many children who are on the street return at night to their families, who are also sleeping on the street.

Like adult men and women, one of the major causes of children’s homelessness is poverty. Nearly all children of the street in low-income countries come from poor families. In countries where child labor is prevalent, young people might leave their homes in rural areas and go to the city to look for work. Even if they find work, they most likely will not be able to obtain shelter. Some street children work to provide money for their families. In Zimbabwe, 35% of homeless children send money to their family.

Throughout the world, family dysfunction leads to children and youth becoming homeless. Young people run away from abusive adults in their family. Family violence and neglect can make living on the streets appear to be a safer option than remaining at home. In sub Saharan Africa, the AIDS epidemic has orphaned many children. If relatives are unable or unwilling to care for their orphaned kin, they may end up on the streets. Children’s homelessness is inexorably intertwined with women’s rights. In countries where women’s rights are limited, mothers may be unable to protect their kids from abuse by leaving their spouse or partner, leaving her children vulnerable to homelessness as they flee the abuse on their own.

In the United States, family dysfunction is one of the leading causes of homelessness for youth who are living on their own.[77] A disproportionate number of homeless youth have been in foster care or have shuttled between different relatives. Many report living in unstable family situations or having unstable housing situations before they became homeless. Physical or sexual abuse can also force youth to leave their homes. Discrimination also plays a role. Families who are unsupportive of a young person’s sexuality or gender identity can also make it unsafe or untenable for them to live at home.

While poverty, affordable housing shortages, family breakdown, and a lack of a social safety net produce homelessness, it is also important to consider the precipitating events that can lead to an individual becoming homeless.[78] The proximate causes of homelessness can lend insight into the risk factors that make an individual vulnerable to losing their housing. In the United States, people experiencing homelessness are more likely to have a severe mental illness or to have struggled with substance abuse than the general population. Various studies indicate that between 20-25% of the homeless population has severe mental illness and 50% have substance abuse issues. However, these issues may be over-or understated depending upon how homelessness is defined and which subset of the homeless population was surveyed. Interestingly, people experiencing homelessness who struggle with mental health or substance abuse issues have more in common with the general homeless population than they do with housed populations who are mentally ill or have substance abuse disorders. This seems to indicate that these contributing factors may have exacerbated an individual’s risk for homelessness, but addiction or mental illness alone are not the primary cause of their lack of housing.

Substance abuse and mental illness are not the only precipitating causes of homelessness. Having a history of housing and family instability may also raise a person’s risk for homelessness later in life. A disproportionate segment of the homeless population spent time in foster care, an orphanage, or other institution during their formative years. In the year prior to becoming homeless, most individuals report some type of major change in their lives. Many report losing jobs or income; others had major physical or mental health issues, and some report an increase in their use of drugs or alcohol. Having a significant change in their relationship or family situation was also common. Breakups, divorces, or giving birth can all raise someone’s risk of homelessness.

Living in an unstable housing situation and having a very low income or precarious economic situation makes it difficult to weather the unexpected events and crises that can be the precipitating cause of homelessness. If you are already paying more than half of your income for rent and you have a limited social support system, a breakup, job loss, worsening addiction, or health problem can end up pushing you over the edge and onto the street.

Homelessness Solutions

When the modern homeless crisis emerged in the 1980s, cities across the U.S. responded by establishing temporary shelters so people would not have to sleep on the streets.[79] By the early 1990s, there were 600,000 shelter beds available nationwide. A shelter is a place that provides a temporary accommodation. Most shelters are large, congregate facilities where people are provided a bed or cot for the night. In addition to a place to sleep, many shelters offer meals, showers, and basic supplies and services. Shelters allow residents to stay for the night and often require them to leave during the daytime hours. Shelters commonly prohibit drug and alcohol use, segregate residents by gender, and do not allow pets. Some shelters may place limits on the amount of time that someone can use their services, and others provide longer-term accommodations to residents who volunteer to help run the institution.

Shelters provide temporary housing for people who are homeless, escaping domestic violence, or fleeing a natural disaster. Shelters are usually run by public, nonprofit, or religious groups. In addition to these officially designated shelters, there are also facilities that become de facto shelters. De facto shelters are places that serve another purpose, but they end up also providing lodging to those who are homeless. Some examples of de facto shelters include: jails, emergency rooms, bus or train stations, subways, and campgrounds.

The presence of de facto homeless shelters in most cities reveals the limitations of relying upon the emergency shelter system as the primary solution to homelessness. Emergency shelters were established as the initial response to the modern resurgence of homelessness in U.S. cities, because most policymakers viewed the rise of homelessness in the 1980s as a temporary problem that would recede as the economy improved. However, the problem continued to persist and grow, and the number of homeless quickly outpaced the number of available shelter beds. Currently, there are enough shelter beds to serve only 51% of the single adults who were identified as homeless during the annual homelessness count in 2019.[80]  Not only are there not enough shelter beds to meet the need, but for most people experiencing homelessness, having access to bed for the night does not help them find permanent housing.

During the 1990s, cities began to focus on providing more comprehensive solutions and creating longer-term shelter options.[81] A tiered system emerged. People would access emergency housing for a limited time period, then move into a transitional housing facility. Transitional housing programs allow residents to stay for longer periods of time, anywhere from a few months to up to two years. The purpose of these programs is to provide temporary housing and services for a target population, such as families with children or people in recovery, to help them transition into permanent housing. Transitional housing units can be singe-room occupancy or apartment units. In addition to increased privacy and security, transitional housing programs provide supportive services, such as job readiness programs, counseling, or mental health care. However, just like emergency shelters, these facilities also require residents to adhere to strict rules or regulations. Transitional housing programs are more effective at getting people into permanent housing than the emergency shelter system is; however, since residents occupy units for longer periods of time, there is slower turnover and a severe shortage of beds. In addition, some people have trouble complying with the facility’s rules or may be ineligible for services, because they are active substance abusers or have a criminal record.

People experiencing homelessness and housing advocates began to question the need to transition people into permanent housing. Why not move them directly into a permanent place to stay? A new approach to homelessness services emerged in the early 2000s. Housing First moves people directly from the streets into permanent housing.[82] This approach recognizes that people need to be housed before they can address any other issues they may have. Without stable housing, it is nearly impossible to maintain good health, get job training, or seek treatment. Housing First offers permanent supportive housing, which is a long-term accommodation where people can access an array of services. Residents are not required to obtain services, and there are no barriers to entry, so someone with a criminal history or active addiction can qualify for a unit. The Housing First approach is primarily targeted toward the chronic homeless, or the long-term, visible street population who can be difficult to house. While this approach has been successful, it can be expensive. Unlike transitional housing programs, housing first residents are encouraged to stay in their units for a long time, which can require deep, ongoing, public subsidies.

Emergency shelters, and transitional and permanent supportive housing facilities are all public policy approaches to addressing homelessness, but people experiencing homelessness have developed their own collective solutions as well. These solutions include both formal and informal encampments, self-built housing, and self-managed squats. Sometimes squats and encampments are set up as protest sites designed to demand additional shelter and housing options from local governments. In the 1990s in Seattle, SHARE and WHEEL, two organizations run by homeless men and women, established a tent city downtown to protest the city’s sweeps of homeless encampments during the Goodwill Games.[83] The city eventually allowed the community of over 150 people to convert an abandoned bus garage into a temporary, self-managed homeless shelter. When the bus barn shelter closed, the city provided SHARE/WHEEL with a building where they created a self-run transitional housing facility. Encampments and building occupations by homeless people have been successful at creating new emergency, transitional, and permanent housing options. The resulting housing options have taken many forms from tiny house communities to car and tent camping sites to cooperative apartment buildings. Housing options that have been developed as a result of grassroots pressure are often self-managed, rather than administered by a nonprofit staff. When people experiencing homelessness design and demand their own solutions, they not only want more housing options, they also want to live with dignity and autonomy.

Not all encampments or squats are set-up as protest sites. The vast majority of makeshift housing communities are developed for survival. A communal encampment or squat not only provides shelter, but living with others also provides protection and allows people to pool their resources. Sometimes, self-built housing communities engage in protest, even though their settlements were not established as protest sites. In Fresno, California, residents of local encampments successfully organized to demand portable toilets and garbage cans from the city.[84] Other self-help homeless communities have fought city-sponsored sweeps, or evictions.

Throughout most of the world, self-help solutions play an integral role in stemming homelessness. Shelters are rare in countries in the Global South.[85] Only India, Bangladesh, and South Africa use shelters to address homelessness. In India, people who sleep on the streets are often wary of shelters, which split up family members by gender and mix people from different communities and castes. Many homeless people find the streets are safer than shelters in India.

Rather than focusing on providing emergency shelter options, most lower-income countries use their limited resources to increase or upgrade the housing supply. In China, the government tightly controls rural to urban migration. Only residents with an official permit can move to fast-growing cities. Controlling the pace of rural to urban migration has allowed the Chinese government to plan for growth and provide an adequate affordable housing supply. The South African government gives subsidies to the lowest-income households to construct or improve their housing or to purchase a plot of land. However, some families have struggled to maintain their upgraded housing because of the monthly bills they incur as a result of adding electricity or running water. Other families are unable to purchase plots of land near their workplace, which can result in transportation cost burdens. Sometimes community members will pool their subsidies to make collective improvements.

Although living in an informal community can make one vulnerable to literal homelessness, moving people out of informal areas and even off the streets into newly built housing elsewhere can also produce unintended hardships. Families may be relocated far from their place of work, and the survival networks they established within their community might be disrupted. When informal housing settlements are evicted in Bangladesh, entire neighborhood economies can collapse. Transportation workers, nannies, food deliverers, vendors, and housecleaners can disappear if a neighborhood is cleared.

Evicting people from informal settlements and moving them into newly built neighborhoods is not only disruptive, it’s also costly. Rather than building new housing, most governments focus on providing services to informal communities and resources so residents can improve their own structures. An organization in Ecuador produces housing kits made from local materials that are affordable to the lowest-income families.[86] These homes can be assembled in a day and cost far less than the most affordable public housing. Families purchase the kits by paying monthly installments equal to 14-24% of the minimum wage for two years. The title to home is the names of the mother and children in the family, ensuring stability. The poorest households are prioritized. More than 100,000 families have built housing using these locally produced kits.

Throughout the world, the most effective solutions to homelessness involve providing resources directly to individuals and communities so they can improve their shelters and lives.[87] Upgrading existing makeshift housing and making infrastructure improvements to informal communities creates jobs and can potentially increase a household’s income if they can expand their home enough to be able to take in boarders. Countries can also prevent women and children from losing their housing by making changes to property and inheritance laws. Brazil adopted a legal provision that puts land titles in the name of both partners in a household regardless of their marital status.

In countries that do not have the resources to provide housing to everyone who is living on the streets, strengthening labor laws and ensuring access to basic services can improve homeless people’s lives. Making sure that people have access to toilets and other sanitary services as well as to education and health care are essential. In addition, homelessness needs to be decriminalized. No one should face the added burdens of being swept or evicted from public spaces. Criminalization can result in homeless people losing their source of income, their property or their liberty.

A Right to Housing

Every nation in the world has ratified at least one international agreement that recognizes the basic human right to have adequate housing.[88] Having a right to housing does not necessarily mean that governments have to take responsibility for building enough homes for all of their citizens, but rather, it involves extending legal protections to prevent people from being evicted or displaced, ensures tenure rights, and guards against housing discrimination. Some nations, like Mexico, South Africa, Russia, and Portugal, have language guaranteeing a right to housing in their constitutions. However, language ensuring a right to housing is worthless without specific policies that allow that right to be realized.
The Right to Adequate Housing

In 1991, the U.N Committee on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights outlined what an international right to adequate housing entails:

  1. Security of Tenure: Regardless of whether one rents, owns, or cooperatively owns their home that is in the public or private sector, they should be protected from forced eviction or harassment.
  2. Services and Infrastructure: Housing should include access to safe, clean drinking water, energy for cooking, heating, lighting, access to waste disposal and sewage, and emergency services.
  3. Affordability: Occupants should be able to pay for housing and still meet their other basic needs. Housing costs should be aligned with wages. Costs may include construction materials when housing is self-built.
  4. Habitability: Housing should protect occupants from weather and the elements. It should be free of disease vectors, structural issues, and other health and safety risks.
  5. Accessibility: Housing must be provided to all without discrimination. The specialized needs of various groups should be accommodated for in the housing that is provided.
  6. Location: Housing should be sited in areas where there are jobs, educational facilities, and services.
  7. Cultural adequacy: The cultural functions of housing need to be taken into account in its design and provision.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, CESCR General Comment No.4: The Right to Adequate Housing, https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/47a7079a1.pdf.


In 2003, Scotland updated its Homelessness Act to include language granting anyone who ended up homeless the right to be permanently housed in a public or private rental unit.[89] With this new legislation, Scotland became the first country in the world to guarantee homeless people the right to be immediately housed in a permanent housing unit for as long as they need. Prior to this act, Scotland already had a very expansive definition of homelessness, which made people living in domestic violence situations, those who were doubled-up, or those living on a boat or in a caravan eligible for housing services.

Scotland’s legislation basically provides a right to housing. Under this act, local governments must enact plans to create additional housing units and to reduce the percentage of unhoused people. In 2020, 80% of people who applied for homelessness assistance were permanently housed, and many of the remainder ended up moving back in with friends or family.[90] Only 4% of those who applied for homelessness assistance in 2020 had been sleeping on the streets. Less than one-fifth of those who applied for assistance had been evicted or lost their housing. Most had been living with family and friends and were forced to leave after some kind of dispute. The reason that the percentage of homeless who lost or were unable to pay for housing is so low is because the Scottish government provides a wide array of homelessness prevention services.[91] For example, if your home is foreclosed, the government has the option to purchase it and rent it back to you. When people are evicted from their housing, the landlord must notify the local public housing authority, so they can provide accommodations. Finally, people being released from prison or from health care facilities are moved directly into housing. The Scottish system is far from perfect. Many individuals and families end up living in temporary housing for far too long, but the country has made great strides in holistically addressing homelessness and as a result has significantly reduced the numbers of people who end up sleeping on the streets.

There is no right to housing in the United States. New York City, Washington D.C., and the state of Massachusetts guarantee a right to shelter, which does not mean that state or local governments are required to connect people to permanent housing.[92] In these places, unhoused people are more likely to be sheltered, but that often means warehousing them in large, emergency shelters. The city of Sacramento is considering passing a right-to-housing mandate.[93] The mandate would obligate the city to provide more units of affordable housing. As it is currently proposed, the mandate would also be tied to an obligation to accept shelter. Some advocates are critical of linking the mandate to an obligation to accept shelter, arguing that it is contrary to the concept of human rights, which recognize the inherent dignity and autonomy of individuals.


Housing comprises a large swath of the physical infrastructure within a city. Housing can be produced by public or private entities and can be leased or sold on the open market or non-market-based criteria can determine who is qualified to move into a unit.

Housing affordability is a major issue in many cities across the globe. A lack of affordable housing can be caused by housing shortages, a mismatch between housing costs and wages, or by financializing mortgage loans and other functions of the housing sector. A household is considered cost-burdened or shelter poor if they are paying too large of a portion of their income for housing.

Cities can address the lack of housing affordability by producing more housing units. Affordable housing can be constructed by the public or private sector. Tax credits and zoning tools can help incentivize builders to create more affordable units. Cities can also subsidize housing costs for their residents. Rent control and tenant protections are important tools that cities can use to address the affordable housing crisis. Second-and third-generation rent control programs have fewer unintended consequences associated with them.

When housing and labor markets fail to produce housing that is affordable to all, homelessness can result. Homelessness encompasses more situations than simply sleeping on the streets. Having a more holistic definition of homelessness can produce a more accurate picture of the problem. In addition to housing and labor market failures, homelessness can also be caused by a lack of a social safety net and family support. Solving homelessness involves more than just simply providing people with a bed for the night. Longer-term housing solutions, often accompanied by services, can be more effective. Recognizing a right to housing can spur governments to take a comprehensive approach to preventing homelessness and providing immediate support for those who lose their housing.

Test your Urban Literacy:

Think about how the concepts in this chapter apply to your own city
  1. Name the three housing tenure sectors. Provide examples of housing developments in your community that represent at least two of these sectors.
  2. What does the concept of housing affordability mean? What criteria should be considered when developing a tool to measure whether a household’s housing costs are affordable?
  3. Identify three tools that cities can use to make housing more affordable for their residents. What are the strengths and weaknesses of these three approaches?
  4. How would you define homelessness if you wanted to get an accurate portrait of this problem? What are the pros and cons of using an expansive definition of homelessness?
  5. Describe three factors that cause homelessness. How do these factors produce homelessness?
  6. What can cities do to address homelessness? Find three examples of programs in your city that address the problem.

Learn to read the city around you:

Apply what you’ve learned in this chapter by completing a hands-on activity in your own city
  1. Create a prototype portable shelter: Design a cheap, lightweight, portable shelter that can be used by people living on the streets. The shelter should be waterproof and protect the user from extreme temperatures. As you design your shelter prototype, think about what the potential users may need. Make sure you think about the need for privacy, mobility, and security. Create drawings of your shelter design, and a plan that outlines who might be able to use these shelters, where and how they might be deployed, and how they could be distributed. Present your prototype and plan to your classmates
  2. Calculate the housing wage in your community: A housing wage is the hourly, monthly, or annual salary that a person must earn to be able to afford the cost of housing in a particular community. The housing wage assumes that a household should pay no more than 30% of their income on housing. To calculate the housing wage, you will need to find out what the average rent is your area. The housing wage will fluctuate depending upon the size of a unit that a household needs. You should calculate the housing wage for at least two household types (for example, a single adult, or a single parent with two children). Once you calculate the housing wage, do some more research to learn what people are actually earning in your city or metropolitan area. Write a report about your findings.
  3. Analyze real estate ads: Collect real estate advertisements from different neighborhoods in your city. Try to find ads from a variety of publications and websites that represent an array of different housing types. Analyze the pictures and texts in your advertisement collection to determine who these homes and units are being marketed to. Think about the demographics of the potential tenants or buyers. Compare different housing types and housing in different neighborhoods. Consider the images and tropes that are used to market housing. What types of messages about home, family, and neighborhood do they reinforce? Write a short essay about what you learn and include pictures and texts from the advertisements to support your ideas.
  4. Compile your personal or family’s housing history: Think about the role that housing has played in you and your family’s lives and how housing and other social policies have influenced where you’ve lived. Compile your own or your family’s housing history. If you are collecting your family’s history, go back as many generations as you are able to. Write down where you or your family have lived, what type of housing you lived in, whether you rented, owned or shared your home, and how you ended up living there. Think about the broader policies or events that shaped your own or your family’s housing history. Present your housing history in a narrative form or as an annotated timeline. If you create a timeline, make sure you also include the dates of specific policies or events that influenced your family’s housing history.
  5. Design a flexible housing community: Design a housing community that can meet the needs of diverse households. Imagine that you have one square block to build a flexible housing community from scratch. Your community will need to serve households of various sizes, incomes, and family types. Think about how to create housing units that can meet the needs of young couples, single disabled adults, multi-generational families, and so on. You will need to think through how the individual units will be designed and how they will fit into a larger building and community. Also, think about the spaces between the buildings. Will there be shared public spaces? What will they be used for? As you design your housing community, think about how you can encourage interaction among residents. Create drawings of your community that show floor plans and the overall design for the block. Present your plans to your classmates.
  6. Write a letter advocating for new homelessness policies: Write a one- to two-page letter to an elected official encouraging them to institute a specific policy that you think would help address homelessness in your community. You will need to find out what your community is already doing to address this issue. You discover that your city has already adopted some effective strategies. If this is the case, you might highlight why you believe these strategies are effective and push for more funding or resources for them. If you find gaps in your city’s approach to homelessness, you may wish to propose a new policy or strategy. This can be a strategy that you come up with, or it can be something that has been developed and implemented in another city or country. When you write your letter, make sure you describe your proposed policy change in detail and address why you think it would be more effective. You will want to persuade your elected official, not alienate them. Think about ways to establish common ground.
  7. Develop a myth and fact sheet about a housing issue in your community: There are persistent popular myths about various housing issues. Select a housing issue that the public may be misinformed about. Create a myth and fact sheet that challenges commonly held beliefs by presenting clear and verifiable information. Make sure you cite your sources.
  8. Explore the relationship between housing and home: Consider how our ideas about home relate to the production, distribution, and design of housing. Choose a creative way to examine this issue. You may want to conduct interviews with people in your city and create a short film about the meaning of home. You might approach this topic by reading poems or listening to songs about home. You could do a linguistic analysis or philosophical exploration of the importance of home. Capture your thoughts through a creative medium (i.e. poetry, art, sculpture, collage, film) and share them with the class.















  1. John Emmeus Davis, “Tenure Sectors,” in The Encyclopedia of Housing, ed. Andrew T. Carswell (Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2012) 742-744.  
  2. Ibid.
  3. Portland Metro East Habitat for Humanity, accessed May 12, 2020, https://habitatportlandmetro.org/programs/homeownership/qualify-and-apply/.
  4. Emmeus Davis, “Tenure Sectors”
  5. Alex F Schwartz, Housing Policy in the United States, Second Edition, (Routledge: New York and London, 2010).
  6. Beng Huat Chua and Meisen Wong, “No one left homeless: Universal provision of housing in Singapore,” in Housing Policy, Wellbeing and Social Development in Asia. Routledge Studies in International Real Estate, eds. Rebecca Lai Har Chiu, and Seong-Kyu Ha (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2018) 106-123.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Schwartz, Housing Policy
  10. Pew Research Center, “Income and Wealth by Income Tier,” accessed May 13, 2020, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/08/22/chapter-7-income-and-wealth-by-income-tier/.
  11. Schwartz, Housing Policy, 41.
  12. U.S. Census Bureau, April 28, 2020, Quarterly Residential Vacancies and Homeownership, First Quarter 2020, https://www.census.gov/housing/hvs/files/currenthvspress.pdf.
  13. Kimberly Amadeo, “Racial Wealth Gap in the United States: Is there a way to close it and fill the divide?” accessed May 19, 2020, https://www.thebalance.com/racial-wealth-gap-in-united-states-4169678.
  14. OECD, “Growing Unequal? Income distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries,” accessed May 19, 2020, http://www.oecd.org/germany/41525346.pdf.
  15. Florian Diekmann,, “A Look at Germany’s Extremely Unequal Wealth Distribution,” Der Spiegel, Jan 26, 2018, https://www.spiegel.de/international/business/inquality-and-wealth-distribution-in-germany-a-1190050.html,
  16. Anna Granath Hansson, "City Strategies for Affordable Housing: The Approaches of Berlin, Hamburg, Stockholm, and Gothenburg," International Journal of Housing Policy: Special Issue: Housing Affordability and Affordable Housing.  19, 1 (2019): 95-119.
  17. Marja Elsinga, Home Ownership beyond Asset and Security Perceptions of Housing Related Security and Insecurity in Eight European Countries. Housing and Urban Policy Studies; 32. (Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2007).
  18.   Alexamder Vasudevan, “The makeshift city,” Progress in Human Geography, 39, 3 (2015) 338–359.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Peter M. Ward, "Housing Rehab for Consolidated Informal Settlements: A New Policy Agenda for 2016 UN-Habitat II,." Habitat International 50 (2015): 373-84.
  22. Dignity Village, “Origins,” accessed December 19. 2020,  https://dignityvillage.org/history/origins/.
  23.   Jakub Galuszka, “Housing provision and improvement programmes for low income populations in the developing world. A review of approaches and their significance in the European context,” Bulletin of Geography, 18, 18 (2012) 29–38
  24. Dodo Julliman, “The World’s First Slum Upgrading Programme,” UN Habitat, June, 2006, https://mirror.unhabitat.org/cdrom/docs/WUF7.pdf.
  25. Clayton Patterson, Resistance: A Radical Social and Political History of the Lower East Side, (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2007).
  26. Vasudevan, “Makeshift City”
  27. Christophe André, "Housing Markets." In The Encyclopedia of Housing, 2nd edition, ed. Andrew T. Carswell, (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012) 367-369.
  28. Robert M. Fogelson, The Great Rent Wars. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013).
  29. André, “Housing Markets”
  30. André, “Housing Markets”
  31. Lucy M. Delgadillo, and Melanie Jewkes. "Affordability," in The Encyclopedia of Housing, 2nd edition, ed. Andrew T. Carswell, (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012) 13-16.
  32. Michael Stone, "Shelter Poverty." in The Encyclopedia of Housing, 2nd edition, ed. Andrew T. Carswell, (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012) 671-673.
  33. Joint Center for Housing Studies. State of the Nation’s Housing 2020. https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/reports/files/Harvard_JCHS_The_State_of_the_Nations_Housing_2020_Report_Revised_120720.pdf
  34. Stone, “Shelter Poverty”
  35. Schwartz, Housing Policy
  36. Christine M.E. Whitehead, and John Goering, "Local Affordable Housing Dynamics in Two Global Cities: Patterns and Possible Lessons?" International Journal of Urban Sciences,  25, S1 (2021): 241-65.
  37. Kathleen Scanlon, Christine Whitehead, and Melissa Fernandez Arrigoitia, Social housing in Europe. Real Estate Issues. (Somerset: WILEY, 2014).
  38. Nicole Gurran, and Glen Bramley, Urban Planning and the Housing Market. (London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2017).
  39. Schwartz, Housing Policy
  40. Local Housing Solutions, Increasing the Affordability of Rental Housing, examples, 2021, https://www.localhousingsolutions.org/act/increasing-the-affordability-of-rental-housing/.
  41. Daniel Mandelker, "Inclusionary Zoning." in The Encyclopedia of Housing, 2nd edition, ed. Andrew T. Carswell, (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012) 387-389.
  42. Hugh Grant, "Rent Control." in The Encyclopedia of Housing, 2nd edition, ed. Andrew T. Carswell, (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012) 597-599.
  43. Whitehead and Goering, “Local Dynamics.”
  44. Richard Arnott, Richard. "Time for Revisionism on Rent Control?" Journal of Economic Perspectives, 9. 1 (1995): 99-120. Grant, “Rent Control”
  45. Hanna Kettunen and Hannu Ruonavaara, “Rent regulation in 21st century Europe. Comparative perspectives,” Housing Studies, 2020, 1-23. Arnott, “Time for Revisionism”
  46. Hannu Runnovaara, “Rethinking the Concept of ‘Housing Regime’,” Critical Housing Analysis, 7, 1 (2020): 5-14. Kettunen and Runnovaara, “Rent Regulation.”
  47. Graham Tipple, and Suzanne Speak, "Definitions of Homelessness in Developing Countries." Habitat International 29, 2 (2005): 337-52.
  48. Tipple and Speak, “Definitions Homelessness in Developing Countries.”
  49. Institute of Global Homelessness, “Briefing from the U.N. Commission on Social Development,” accessed on June 1, 2021, http://ighomelessness.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/IGH-CSocD-Policy-Briefing-1.pdf.; Tipple and Speak, “Definitions Homelessness in Developing Countries.”
  50. D. MacKenzie, "Homelessness: Definitions," in International Encyclopedia of Housing and Home, ed. Susan J. Smith, (Jordan Hill: Elsevier Science and Technology, 2012) 25-35.
  51. Martha Burt, “Homelessness, Definitions and Estimates of” in David Levinson, Encyclopedia of Homelessness, (Thousand Oaks, USA: SAGE Publications, 2004) 234-239.
  52. Burt, “Homelessness Definitions, Estimates”
  53. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress,” January, 2021, https://www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/2020-AHAR-Part-1.pdf.
  54. National Center for Homeless Education, “Federal Data Summary, School Years 2016-2017 and 2018-2019, Education for Homeless Children and Youth,” April 2021, https://nche.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Federal-Data-Summary-SY-16.17-to-18.19-Final.pdf.
  55. HUD “Annual Homeless Assessment”
  56. National Center for Homeless Education, “Federal Data Summary”
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  58. Keri Weber Sikich, "Global Female Homelessness: A Multi-Faceted Problem." Gender Issues, 25, 3 (2008): 147-56.
  59. Lisa Goodman, Katya Fels, Catherine Glen, and Judy Benitez, “No Safe Place: Sexual Assault and the Lives of Homeless Women,” September, 2006, https://vawnet.org/sites/default/files/materials/files/2016-09/AR_SAHomelessness.pdf.
  60. Sikich, “Global Female Homelessness”
  61. Burt, “Homelessness Definitions, Estimates”
  62. Paul Koegel, "Causes of Homelessness: Overview," in Encyclopedia of Homelessness, ed. David Levinson, (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2004), 51-58
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  64. Institute of Global Homelessness, “Briefing from the U.N.”
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  66. Tipple and Speak, The Hidden Millions
  67. International Labor Organization, “Women and Men in the Informal Economy: A Statistical Portrait, Third Edition,” 2018, https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_626831.pdf
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  69. Tipple and Speak, The Hidden Millions; International Labor Organization, “Informal Economy”
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