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GAO Study Requested by Waters Confirms Homelessness Much Worse Than Previously Reported

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, issued the following statement after the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, “Homelessness: Better HUD Oversight of Data Collection Could Improve Estimates of Homeless Population,” following Waters’ 2018 request for a comprehensive study on the state of homelessness in America. Specifically, Waters requested that the study focus on factors that have led to recent increases in homelessness and review the methodology used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and local Continuums of Care (COCs) to determine how many people are experiencing homelessness.

“In 2018, I requested GAO complete a comprehensive study on the homelessness crisis in the U.S. to help us better address its root causes. Unsurprisingly, but troubling enough, the study found that the homelessness crisis in this country is likely worse than current estimates, due to an undercount of youth, immigrants, families, people in rural and remote areas, and those experiencing unsheltered homelessness. The U.S. is one of the richest, wealthiest, countries in the world, and it is shameful that so many across the nation, including in my city of Los Angeles, are living on the streets,” said Chairwoman Maxine Waters. “The truth is that homelessness is a symptom of bigger problems, like America’s rental housing crisis, that for too long have gone unaddressed. We can’t wait any longer to take bold action and it is why Congress must pass my Ending Homelessness Act to ensure every person experiencing homelessness has a place to call home. Now, as COVID-19 cases skyrocket and Republicans refuse to act, I will continue working to prevent an already terrible problem from getting worse.”


Among the study’s key takeaways is the confirmation that increases in homelessness are directly related to the rental housing crisis in America. Specifically, the GAO found that the rate of homelessness increases about nine percent when there is $100 increase in median rental price. Additionally, the study found that the methodology for counting people experiencing homelessness has greater limitations and challenges in rural and remote areas that are likely leading to more significant under counting rather than a true indication that homelessness is less prevalent in rural and remote areas.

In 2019, Chairwoman Maxine Waters introduced H.R.5187, the Housing is Infrastructure Act of 2019, a bill to provide the necessary funding to improve the nation’s housing infrastructure and create jobs across the country, which was included in H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. Chairwoman Waters also introduced H.R. 1856, the Ending Homelessness Act of 2019, legislation that provides a comprehensive plan to ensure that every person experiencing homelessness in America has a place to call home. Chairwoman Waters first introduced the Ending Homelessness Act in 2016.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chairwoman Waters introduced H.R. 7301, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020, legislation that includes a $100 billion emergency rental assistance fund and an extension of the federal eviction moratorium. Chairwoman Waters was instrumental in securing these same provisions in the Heroes Act.

Click here to access the report.


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