The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
April 19, 2012

Are families facing foreclosure becoming homeless?

April 19, 2012

The most frequent question that comes across my desk is whether households facing foreclosure are becoming homeless. This is a tough question. The answer is that a few families may be trickling into homeless shelters, but probably not immediately after foreclosure, and not on a wide scale. Some limited evidence from DC shows this is the case. The rest of the answer requires some sleuthing. HUD data show that almost a quarter of families that entered shelter in 2010 came directly from a home they owned or rented. It is unclear how many of these situations are foreclosure related because shelters are not required to track this information. Plus, shelters are often a last stop on the residential instability road. Families facing foreclosure may move into a rental unit or double up with friends or family first. If these situations become unsustainable for whatever reason, the next stop may be the shelter. Indeed, the HUD data on shelter entry show that most families entering shelter come from doubled-up situations; but again, it is unclear how many are doubling up because of foreclosure. The lack of data is frustrating.

Previous Living Situation Before Entering Shelter

Source: HUD AHAR 2010.

Bottom line? It is hard to tell exactly how many families facing foreclosure end up homeless. But we know that forced displacement can produce residential instability, and we know from the research that residential instability is bad for school-age children, who may fall behind in class and spend a large part of the year playing catch-up. What should policymakers do about it? My colleagues Jenn Comey and Kathryn Pettit outline some recommendations here.

As an organization, the Urban Institute does not take positions on issues. Scholars are independent and empowered to share their evidence-based views and recommendations shaped by research.

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