Exploring the Intersection Between Inflation and Houselessness

By IndyKids Staff

Sidewalk tent camps in Portland, Ore. Photo: Graywalls, Wikimedia Commons

What is inflation? One definition is “a rise in prices, which can be translated as the decline of purchasing power over time” (Investopedia). Why does the word “inflation” make most people’s eyes glaze over, and why do they try to think of — literally anything else? How is it that something with so much power over our well-being is a concept most of us cannot even define? Who determines what inflation is? And how does inflation control whether or not we get to live and eat indoors?

Let’s first start with houselessness.

The general consensus is that increased housing prices have forced a crisis in affordable housing for many people worldwide. According to researchers from The Pew Charitable Trusts, “allowing more homes to be built keeps housing costs down.” Their conjecture is that permitting the construction of more housing—whether subsidized or unsubsidized—can reduce houselessness. The Pew researchers posit that making housing available to vulnerable people is more effective than requiring those same individuals to participate in substance use or mental health treatment programs to secure housing.

However, an issue often overlooked in discussions of houselessness is population growth. There are too many of us now, and that growth is exponential—and has been for decades. Housing prices are increasing, and we are charging more as a result of the old law of supply and demand—but, in part, that has to do with how many of us there are to house now. Currently there is an overwhelming surplus of people, and this trend is projected to intensify in the future. The focal points of the houselessness discussion should include population control and affordable housing.

Months Behind on Rental Payments. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey; NAEH analysis. Percentages may not sum to 100% due to rounding.

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