By: Bohan Gao and Ashlyn Bi July 27, 2023
Despite all the disappointments and disenchantments, I believe in the American Dream. I find merit in it because it is crucial in guaranteeing American citizens a house to live in, along with essential living standards. But outside of vague normative ethics, the values of our democracy—the American Dream—provide the ultimate justification for substantially increasing our nation’s rapid re-housing programs to relocate those experiencing homelessness into permanent housing.
In the status-quo, prices for low-income housing are rising at record levels. It is becoming more and more expensive for low-income constituents to afford housing. Right now, these people are jumping between short-term rental homes they can pay for. But according to NPR, in 2022, rents have risen by a staggering 40% across the nation since the pandemic as demand for solitary housing skyrocketed. Now, short-term rentals for low-income housing are driving up their house prices. As a result, the Homeless Resource Line reports that homelessness has increased by 92% from 2018 to 2022. The increased burden of paying rent means that individuals must choose between having a home and paying for necessary services. There is an increasing need for re-housing programs, but supply is not meeting demand. Thus, it is crucial to increase the number of rapid re-housing programs now.
Even more importantly, these programs are needed to stabilize the housing market. Within tight markets, poor and middle-class households feel compelled to compete with one another for scarce homes. According to City Observatory, higher-income households often bid up the price of older houses that would otherwise be affordable to lower-income Americans. When there are housing shortages, wealthy Americans flood into older housing units and drive up rents, reducing affordable options overall. Emily Badger of the Washington Post explains this phenomenon: if there is a shortage of houses, more families feel pressured to compete for the existing housing stock. As such, homes are mainly won through intense bidding wars, a situation where two or more property buyers compete by attempting to outbid the other. Unfortunately, Badger finds that wealthier families tend to outbid lower-income ones, driving up land prices and making it impossible for the poor to find a home. By providing direct access to housing, rapid re-housing programs reduce competition between households of differing socioeconomic statuses and ultimately counter the bidding war.
Although opponents to re-housing argue that these programs are often ineffective, empirical evidence discredits their claim. The FY 2014 Annual report finds that 73% of people rapidly re-housed exited to permanent housing, including 67% of those with zero income and who did not receive a permanent housing voucher. In fact, compared to transitional housing, a popular alternative, rapid-rehousing programs have even seen better long-term effects. A 2017 study from Vanderbilt University found that the odds of returning to a shelter are 2.5 times greater for transitional housing clients, with 29.2% of them returning within two years compared to only 7.2% of rapid-rehousing clients.
Ultimately, access to housing is a vital tool in combating poverty. Garrison of HousingWire writes that rapid re-housing would provide critical stability for around 19 million low-income households currently paying over half of their income on housing. The American Dream affirms that every citizen of the United States ought to receive equal opportunity for success. Rapid re-housing is a way to uphold these beliefs and by fighting for justice, action, and reform, we can provide every American the ability to make their dream a reality.
Arnold, Chris. “It’s Not Just Home Prices. Rents Rise Sharply Across the U.S.” NPR, 14 Feb. 2022,
Badger, Emily. “How to Make Expensive Cities Affordable for Everyone Again.” Washington Post, 24 Nov. 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/19/how-to-make-expensive-cities-affordable-for-everyone-again/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.eb9ebe5c212b
Basile, Caroline. “NewDay USA Appoints Garrison Foster Senior Vice President.” HousingWire, Mar. 2018, www.housingwire.com/articles/42699-newday-usa-appoints-garrison-foster-senior-vice-president
“City Observatory - Urban Myth Busting: Why Building More High Income Housing Helps Affordability.” City Observatory, 20 Feb. 2017, cityobservatory.org/urban-myth-busting-high-income2
“City of Mesa.” Addressing Homelessness in Mesa, 2022, Quigley, John M., and Steven Raphael.
“The Economics of Homelessness: the Evidence from North America.” European Journal of Housing Policy, vol. 1, no. 3, Routledge, Jan. 2001, pp. 323–36, doi:10.1080/14616710110091525.
“Rapid Re-Housing Works - National Alliance to End Homelessness.” National Alliance to End Homelessness, 6 Oct. 2022, endhomelessness.org/rapid-re-housing-works
Rodriguez, Jason D., and Tessa A. Eidelman. “Homelessness Interventions in Georgia: Rapid Re-Housing, Transitional Housing, and the Likelihood of Returning to Shelter.” Housing Policy Debate, vol. 27, no. 6, Taylor and Francis, May 2017, pp. 825–42, doi:10.1080/10511482.2017.1313292.