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Vehicular Homelessness Soars with Housing Prices

National  + Weekender  | 

Although the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development doesn’t collect national data on vehicle residency, the category that includes those sleeping in cars continues to rise. Last year, the nationwide number jumped to 192,875 on a single night from 176,357 the year before.

Dubbed by researcher Graham Pruss, the vehicle is a new form of “affordable housing,” as housing prices continue to rise. Because of the increase in the number of people living in their cars, some cities like Santa Barbara, CA and Kirkland, WA are taking the initiative to create safe parking programs. Other cities are trying to tighten regulations and ban vehicular residency altogether, as they are concerned it will contribute to criminal activity and littering.

In Los Angeles, where homelessness is ubiquitous, Safe Parking L.A. Lots is a nonprofit initiative that allows for overnight parking residency and hires security guards. It costs about $100,000 annually to operate, and it may be the biggest test of whether or not these programs can help alleviate the burden of rising housing prices.

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