American Capitalism in 2013: There are 18,600,000 vacant homes in the United States. That’s enough for every homeless person to have six.

I can't find a source for this, and that number seems much too high to me (although I don't know much about the subject). Is this true? If not, what is the actual ratio of homeless people to vacant houses?

2 Answers 2


No, the proportions are far more extreme than six vacant houses per homeless person.

There are 633,782 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.

  • The US Census Bureau reports on the residential vacancies. In April 2013, they reported 18,439,000 homes were vacant in the first quarter of 2013. Some of these were seasonal, but 13,970,000 were "Year-round" vacant, so that's a more conservative figure to use. [Figures from Table 3.]

The ratio of 13,970,000 : 633,782 is greater than 22 vacant homes per homeless person.

  • 11
    Probably worth noting: the homeless population changes. The number of people who experienced homelessness in a year is likely to be much higher than the number of people who were homeless last night.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 10, 2013 at 13:56
  • 24
    Also worth noting is that just because a building is vacant doesn't mean it is good-repair and habitable or is present somewhere that you would want to live (i.e. no nearby jobs).
    – rjzii
    Nov 10, 2013 at 17:35
  • 2
    @rob, I worked a temp contract for a property preservation company for three months last year; mostly, I put together bimonthly reports on grass cut work orders for properties owned by Wells Fargo (our largest customer), but occasionally I'd see other work orders, and orders from other banks. The state of disrepair of some of the houses was, frankly, appalling. At least the banks were posting work orders to get them into a sell-able condition!
    – Brian S
    Nov 13, 2013 at 22:24
  • 2
    @rjzii I'm not sure those are primary worries for homeless people.
    – gerrit
    Feb 16, 2015 at 23:22

The number of vacant houses seems to be correct for 2009 (but seems to have fallen since to 14M, see below). The number of homeless people may be much lower (~630,000), but that may depend on definition. Using these numbers brings the ratio to 22, and given that a house can house more than one person, the ratio becomes more pronounced.

The numbers may have been originated from amnesty - http://blog.amnestyusa.org/us/housing-its-a-wonderful-right/ but I did not find their source.

See: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/01/homeless-homelessness-housing/2730301/ http://www.storyleak.com/recovery-us-enough-empty-houses-hold-population-of-britain/ http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=an17jgiccivM

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