GAO Report to Congress Finds Increase in Homelessness, Likely Undercount by HUD

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report to Congress on August 13 directly tying increases in the cost of rental housing to increases in homelessness. The report also indicates that HUD’s Point-in-Time (PIT) count is limited in its ability to provide an accurate count of the number of people experiencing homelessness.

The report, commissioned by House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) in 2018, analyzes factors that have led to a recent spike in the number of people experiencing homelessness and reviews HUD’s methodology for the Point-in-Time (PIT) count, a biennial count of the number of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. on a single night. The report finds that a median rent increase of $100 per month are associated with a 9% increase in rates of homelessness. Other factors, such as job losses, also contributed to increased rates of homelessness.

Additionally, the report suggests HUD’s methods for carrying out its PIT count may result in an undercount of the number of people experiencing homelessness. The PIT is carried out by Continuums of Care (CoC), federally funded local planning bodies that provide housing and services to people experiencing homelessness. In 2019, the PIT count estimated 568,000 people in the U.S. experienced homelessness on a given night. However, given the difficulty of locating every person experiencing homelessness – particularly in rural and remote areas – counting the number of people experiencing homelessness can be a difficult endeavor. The GAO found that HUD provides neither adequate guidance nor adequate oversight of CoCs in performing their PIT counts.

The report recommends that HUD conduct quality assurance checks and provide detailed instructions to CoCs on conducting their PITs. In her response to the report, Chairwoman Waters emphasized the need for Congress to take action to increase the availability of affordable housing and improve the nation’s infrastructure, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chairwoman Waters has introduced three bills that would provide meaningful investments in the construction and preservation of affordable housing and urgently needed relief to low-income renters. The “Housing is Infrastructure Act of 2019” (H.R. 5187) would invest more than $100 billion in affordable housing and community development programs, including a one-year investment of $5 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund and $70 billion to address the public housing capital needs backlog, among other crucial investments. The “Ending Homelessness Act of 2019” (H.R. 1856), would provide $13.27 billion over five years to fight homelessness and housing shortages through vouchers, construction of new units, and outreach to people experiencing homelessness.

The “Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020” (H.R. 7301) proposes almost $200 billion in new funding for housing and homelessness programs to help communities address the needs of low-income renters, homeowners, and people experiencing homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic. These provisions include NLIHC’s top priorities for the next coronavirus relief package, including $100 billion for emergency rental assistance; $11.5 billion to prevent and respond to coronavirus outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness; a national, uniform moratorium on evictions and foreclosures; and additional resources to ensure housing stability.

Read the GAO report at:

Read Chairwoman Waters’ statement on the report at:

Learn more about the “Housing is Infrastructure Act” at:

Learn more about the “Ending Homelessness Act” at:

Learn more about the “Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act” at: