HUD Credits COVID-19 Relief for Improved Homelessness Numbers

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's "2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report" comes with significant caveats about partial data and changing homeless shelter practices.

2 minute read

February 8, 2022, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A group of socially distanced tents for the homeless are set up on a parking lot in San Francisco's Civic Center.

nerriy / Shutterstock

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released its 2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) Part 1 to Congress on Friday, February 4, 2022. Part 1 of the AHAR provides Point-in-Time (PIT) estimates, offering a snapshot of homelessness on a single night. Part 2 provides estimates of homelessness in the United States, but HUD has not produced a Part 2 of the report since 2018, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the HUD Exchange website.

According to a February 4 HUD press release, the report counts more than 326,000 people experiencing sheltered homelessness in the United States on a single night in 2021. The figure represents an eight percent decrease from 2020. "'Sheltered homelessness' refers to people experiencing homelessness who were found in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or other temporary settings," according to the press release.

HUD did not require communities to count unsheltered homeless in 2021 due to the public health concerns of the Covid-19 pandemic. A count of unsheltered homeless is reported in the AHAR, but with the caveat of the reported total being an estimate based on partial data. With that caveat in mind, the number of unsheltered homeless stayed relatively flat in 2021 compared to 2020.

The pandemic resulted in considerable changes to the practices of homeless service providers. "To promote the safety of people staying in shelter programs, most emergency shelters reduced occupancy to respond to CDC recommendations on COVID-19 safety measures," according to the press release. Those changes warrant caution about comparing Part 1 of this year's report to previous years.

HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge is quoted in the press release touting the results of the report. "The findings of the 2021 AHAR Part 1 report suggest that federal COVID-19 relief had positive impacts on sheltered homelessness," said Secretary Fudge.

Friday, February 4, 2022 in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Aerial view of snowy single-family homes in suburban Long Island, New York

New York Governor Advances Housing Plan Amid Stiff Suburban Opposition

Governor Kathy Hochul’s ambitious proposal to create more housing has once again run into a brick wall of opposition in New York’s enormous suburbs, especially on Long Island. This year, however, the wall may have some cracks.

March 20, 2023 - Mark H. McNulty

Empty parking garage at night with yellow lines marking spots and fluorescent lighting

Rethinking the Role of Parking in the American City

In cities big and small, the tide is turning against sprawling parking lots, car-centric development, and minimum parking mandates.

March 16, 2023 - The New York Times

A futuristic version of New York City, with plants growing neatly on top of modern skycrapers.

Friday Eye Candy: 20 AI-Generated Cityscapes

AI-generated images are creating new landscapes and cityscapes, capable of inspiring awe or fear.

March 17, 2023 - Chris Steins via Medium

A group of wetsuit-clad swimmers gathers to talk in shallow water near the shore of the San Francisco Bay.

Proposed Pool Would Make an Olympic-Sized Play Area in the San Francisco Bay

The San Francisco Bay is usually an undesirable place to swim, except for a hearty few. A development proposal seeking assistance at the state level would add a pool to the Bay’s waters to make the idea of going for a swim more appealing.

March 24 - The Mercury News

Chicago elevated train over busy city street surrounded by high-rise buildings

Chicagoland Transit Agencies Call for State Funding as Budget Shortfall Looms

Illinois transit agencies want to see changes to a law requiring them to collect half of their revenue from transit fares, arguing that low ridership and staffing shortages will lead to a massive budget gap without intervention.

March 24 - Crain's Chicago Business

Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge

Panel: Minneapolis Zoning Updates Should Reflect Mixed-Use Future

A discussion of post-pandemic changes in work and commuting concluded that the city’s overhaul of its zoning code should be less restrictive with land uses.

March 24 - MinnPost

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.