I just saw this meme on Facebook:
Since this question answered the ratio question, I would like to know if these houses are "available for" those homeless?
According to Census.gov, in the 1st quarter of 2014 there were 18,319,000 vacant housing units.
The number of homeless is debatable, because those in institutions or staying at friends' places are not counted in government reports like the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (which estimated 610,042 homeless in January 2013). This site mentions 1,750,000 homeless, presumably on 7.1.2014, but I could not find the AHAR 2014.
18319000 / 610042 = 30 vacant homes per homeless.
18319000 / 1750000 = 10 vacant homes per homeless.
Some of those are summer homes, though, so using Year-Round Vacant Housing Units, we get this:
13785000 / 610042 = 22.6
24 empty houses for each homeless American (assuming only the USA) seems like a reasonable estimate, especially since the meme is older than 3 Feb 2012.
Still, most of those are not up for sale or rent. Totaling the vacancies for rent (3710000) and for sale (1521000) gives us:
5231000 / 610042 = 8.6
Which is similar to the 6 mentioned in the meme in this related/duplicate question.
So the answer is NO; 24 is a rather gross exaggeration of the number of homes available for sale/rent.
Also, "houses" as depicted in the meme is an exaggeration, as according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census:
As for being available to the homeless, Utah cut down its homeless population by 74% by giving them free homes (in hopes of saving money on ER). And a month later, it's 78%:
San Francisco's mayor's chief of homelessness policy, Bevan Dufty, had this to say:
That might not be the case in areas with high real estate costs and for-profit prisons, but it would be a better use of homes than demolishing them due to lack of buyers. Also, some homeless pay property taxes.
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