Centennial Olympic Park. (Photo from Luis Negron via Pexels.)

Metro Atlanta has the 46th lowest rate of homelessness of the 50 largest metro areas in the country, according to a recent study from Clever Real Estate published on Home Bay that looked at home values vs homelessness rates.

Metro Atlanta has a homelessness rate of 52.7 per 100,000 people. That’s a relatively low number compared to 637 per 100,000 people in San Jose, Calif., the city with the highest rate of homelessness. The national average is 176 per 100,000 people.

The study used a “point-in-time” count to obtain their data on homelessness, which measures a snapshot of homelessness people in the streets from a selected night in January along with about a week of data from volunteers and homeless shelters. The study included point-in-time counts from the following continuums of care:

  • Marietta/Cobb County CoC
  • DeKalb County CoC
  • Fulton County CoC
  • Atlanta CoC

The count number fell from about 3600 people in 2017’s point-in-time count to around 2000 in the most recent 2022 count, according to Matt Brannon, data analyst at Clever Real Estate.

The purpose of the study was to find any trends between rates of homelessness and home values across the 50 largest metros. The trend that emerged was clear — higher home values typically led to higher rates of homelessness.

This would help explain why the cities with the lowest and highest rates of homelessness — Atlanta and San Jose, respectively — have a large difference in average home value, with Atlanta at $325,680 compared to San Jose’s $1.39 million.

“The five metros with the lowest homeless rates average home prices at $255,860 — 15 percent lower than the U.S. average of $301,466,” according to Clever Real Estate, which aligns with the trend between increased homelessness rates and higher home values.

The western United States — especially cities in California — had the worst rates of homelessness according to the study, and conversely typically had the highest home values. In fact, five of the seven worst metro homelessness rates were in the state of California. 

Likewise, the eastern half of the U.S. fared better with home values and homelessness rates.

“The 15 cities with the lowest rates of homelessness are all in the eastern half of the U.S., with seven in the Midwest,” according to a statement from Clever Real Estate.

Following the trend, Pittsburgh has the lowest home values in the country, and ranks second to last only ahead of Atlanta itself. Atlanta was somewhat of an outlier. While it ranks last in homelessness per capita, it ranks 25th in average home value — right in the middle. Matt Brannon, data analyst at Clever Real Estate, says Atlanta being so low was surprising.

A variety of factors could point towards Atlanta being so low. Brannon says it could be anything from effective local policy to geography — weather being less forgiving in the winters as opposed to places like California, where it might be possible to stay outside longer or overnight.

Of note, says Brannon, is that cities that continue to build more housing tend to see housing costs be lower, and Atlanta ranks fifth in authorizing the most building permits in the country.

Brannon acknowledges that because of the nature of tracking homelessness, the actual count could be higher. That said, he finds it hard to believe a major shift would suddenly drop Metro Atlanta from one of the best to anything significantly less. 

All that aside, Brannon emphasized that this isn’t an indication that nothing more can be done.

“The takeaway shouldn’t be, ‘Atlanta has one of the lowest rates of homelessness — problem solved, we did it’ ,” Brannon said. “There’s always more that can be done. Especially the way homelessness is calculated [with the point-in-time count], the true exact figure of people living in homelessness in Atlanta, it’s not something we can track easily.”

Instead, Brannon hopes the takeaway from the study is the trends between home values and homelessness.

The U.S. average rate of homelessness is 176 per 100,000 people in the 50 metros according to the study. To cut that number in half in the near future, Brannon says its simple — build more supply.

“I would say the simplest solution is to just build more housing. Cutting down on restrictions in building houses; you need to incentivize developers to build these things,” said Brannon.

Basically, plain old supply and demand.

Author’s Note (Aug. 30) : The data originally provided landed Atlanta at 50th out of the 50 largest metros in homeless population. After a review of the data and subsequent recalculations from Clever Real Estate, Atlanta moved up higher to 46th.