An Upcoming Supreme Court Case Threatens to Criminalize Homelessness

While much of the national focus on homelessness has centered around the growing drug and overdose crisis, data shows, especially for Black unhoused people, it is an issue of affordability


Black Americans are the most likely racial group to be renters, as rental prices nationwide have grown nearly 30% higher than inflation since 2000. As a result, Black people face the greatest burden to access housing and have the highest rate of evictions nationwide


recent study even found that nationwide, Black people face the highest upfront rental costs, paying on average $150 more in security deposits than white people and $15 more in rental application fees.


Chris Tyson, president of the National Community Stabilization Trust, believes that to combat racism in the rental industry, a comprehensive national plan needs to be built for Black Americans to purchase affordable housing. 


The “largest driver of the racial wealth gap is the gap in homeownership,” said Tyson, and it has only compounded over time. The homeownership gap between white and Black Americans is larger today than it was over 60 years ago.


Still, the struggles for homeownership are widespread. Before the pandemic, an estimated 40% of homes for sale were affordable for the typical American household. Last year, it was just 16%. For Black households, it was less than 7%. 


For Black communities in particular, Tyson argues that an increase of vacant, blighted properties drives the housing crisis. In many of these cities, it is cheaper for private developers to sit on these properties than to redevelop them for use. In Baltimore, his organization has a program that funds small developers who rehabilitate vacant properties to turn them into affordable housing. 


Tyson’s nonprofit group, which focuses on creating affordable homeownership opportunities, has advocated for the passing of the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, which would help develop over 500,000 new homes in the next decade geared toward making homeownership more equitable for Black families, particularly those in the South.


In growing Black cities across the South, there has also been a proliferation of private investors buying properties in Black neighborhoods and turning single-family homes into rental units, blocking homeownership opportunities for longtime Black residents and contributing to gentrification. 


This practice “directly impacts the wealth-building opportunities for the families, who are invariably Black, in these cities,” said Tyson.


And ultimately, for those living on the streets, it is not even a question of building wealth but rather just the opportunity to have a roof over their heads. Johnson, for example, bundled in a black jacket and white ski mask, recently slept outside during Louisiana’s second-coldest week in 20 years.


“I don’t like to sleep on the streets, and my situation may change very soon,” Johnson said, referring to his friend sitting beside him who had just received supportive housing. 


“They got a whole bunch of money allocated to housing the homeless specifically and to clean up. But, in the meanwhile, I’m here,” he said as he sold one of his past birthday presents, a blue stone ring, for $5. He used four of those dollars to buy a cheeseburger from the restaurant behind him. 

Read the full Capital B News article here

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Please reach out to the following NCST staff for comments on housing policy:


Carlos Alcazar, Chief Operating Officer

[email protected]