Homelessness and Empty Homes - Trends Since 2010

Homelessness in the US is a serious problem. The White House reports that over half a million Americans don’t have a home to sleep in on any given night. From 2014-2018 there was an increase of over 25,000 unsheltered homeless people. While the homelessness problem grows each year, the number of empty properties around the country is also increasing.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What is an ‘empty home’?

An empty home is what the government refers to as a ‘vacant housing unit’, which, for whatever reason, is not occupied by a citizen. This can include vacation homes but also properties which have sold but are not occupied. This is according to the United States Census Bureau, where all property data for this analysis was collected. You can see all exceptions and inclusions to property types in the official government definition.

According to government figures, between 2010 and 2018, the number of empty properties rose by over 1.1 million. Across the USA, there is currently an average of 26 vacant properties per homeless person. This figure varies drastically per state.

We took data from official government sources to collate a map that looks at the:

  • Number of homeless people per state
  • Number of empty properties per state
  • The ratio of homelessness and vacant properties per state
  • How this has changed per state since 2010

Key findings from our research

  • North Dakota had the largest increase of empty properties from 2010-2018 at 61%
  • West Virginia had the largest decrease in empty properties at -28.5%
  • South Dakota had the largest percentage increase (58.6%) in homelessness
  • Louisiana had the largest percentage decrease (-74.5%) in homelessness
  • Mississippi has the largest homelessness : empty property ratio with 166 empty homes for each homeless person on any given night
  • California has the lowest homelessness : empty property ratio sitting at just over 9 empty properties for each person without a home

Use the map below to click through each year to see how each state compares, as well as how the actual numbers of empty homes and homelessness is changing.

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2018 - Top 5 states with highest number of vacant properties:

  1. Florida - Over 1.73m
  2. Texas - Over 1.32m
  3. California - Over 1.2m
  4. New York - 996,832
  5. North Carolina - 673,500

2010 - Top 5 states with highest number of vacant properties:

  1. Florida - Over 1.71m
  2. Texas - Over 1.17m
  3. California - Over 1.15m
  4. New York - 845,095
  5. Michigan - 685,683

2018 - States with highest ratio of homeless people to empty properties:

  1. Mississippi has an average of 166 empty homes per 1 homeless person
  2. Indiana has an average of 151 empty homes per 1 homeless person
  3. West Virginia has an average of 127 empty homes per 1 homeless person
  4. Alabama has an average of 122 empty homes per 1 homeless person
  5. Louisiana has an average of 110 empty homes per 1 homeless person

2010 - States with highest ratio of homeless people to empty properties:

  1. Indiana had an average of 133 empty homes per 1 homeless person
  2. West Virginia had an average of 98 empty homes per 1 homeless person
  3. South Carolina had an average of 77 empty homes per 1 homeless person
  4. Maine had an average of 68.6 empty homes per 1 homeless person
  5. Delaware had an average of 68.5 empty homes per 1 homeless person

2018 - States with highest number of homeless people:

  1. California has 129,972 homeless people on any given night (5.3% increase)
  2. New York has 91,897 homeless people on any given night (40.1% increase)
  3. Florida has 31,030 homeless people on any given night (85.5% increase)
  4. Texas has 25,310 homeless people on any given night (38.8% increase)
  5. Massachusetts has 20,068 homeless people on any given night (20.6% increase)

2010 - States with lowest number of homeless people:

  1. California had 123,480 homeless people on any given night
  2. New York had 65,606 homeless people on any given night
  3. Florida had 57,551 homeless people on any given night
  4. Texas had 35,121 homeless people on any given night
  5. Georgia had 19,836 homeless people on any given night

Top 5 states where homelessness has increased since 2010

  1. South Dakota - increase of 58.6%
  2. New York - increase of 40.1%
  3. Massachusetts - increase of 20.6%
  4. Hawaii - increase of 12%
  5. Wyoming - increase of 10.4%

Top 5 states to reduce homelessness since 2010

  1. Louisiana - reduction of 75.5%
  2. Georgia - reduction of 52.1%
  3. Mississippi - reduction of 50.7%
  4. Florida - reduction of 46.1%
  5. West Virginia - reduction of 45.1%

Top 5 states where number of vacant properties has increased since 2010

  1. North Dakota - increase of 61%
  2. Hawaii - increase of 30.1%
  3. Wyoming - increase of 29.3%
  4. Alabama - increase of 29%
  5. Mississippi - increase of 28.7%

Top 5 states where number of vacant properties has reduced since 2010

  1. West Virginia - reduction of 28.5%
  2. Nevada - reduction of 13.7%
  3. Arizona - reduction of 6.2%
  4. Georgia - reduction of 5.2%
  5. Michigan - reduction of 4.2%

Methodology

To conduct our research, we collected the number of occupied and unoccupied properties per state for each year between 2018 (most recent available data) and 2010 using data.census.gov. We also collected the historical data for homelessness statistics using Whitehouse.gov. Our ratios were then simply calculated by dividing the number of empty properties by the number of homeless people in each state for a given year.

Our data was collected from these sources:

  • https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table
  • https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=unoccupied&hidePreview=false&tid=ACSDP1Y2018.DP04&vintage=2018&cid=DP04_0001E&layer=state&g=0100000US.04000.001&y=2018&t=Housing%20Units%3AOccupancy%20Characteristics&tp=true
  • http://indicatorsidaho.org/DrawRegion.aspx
  • https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/The-State-of-Homelessness-in-America.pdf
  • https://www.hudexchange.info/homelessness-assistance/ahar/#2019-reports
  • https://www.census.gov/housing/hvs/definitions.pdf