2024 Problem: A Tale of Two Crises: The Housing Shortage and Homelessness

Image by Jörg Hertle from Pixabay

In this problem, you are tasked with using mathematical modeling to understand these intertwined crises from a long-term perspective. In addressing the three questions below, your goal should be to help governments make plans not just for the next several years, but for the next several decades.

  • Q1: It Was the Best of Times—Create a model that predicts changes in the housing supply in either the two U.S. or two U.K. regions below in the next 10, 20, and 50 years. Indicate your level of confidence in your predictions.

U.S.: Seattle, Washington Albequerque, New Mexico

U.K.: Manchester Brighton and Hove

  • Q2: It Was the Worst of Times—For the regions you chose in Q1, predict changes in the homeless population in the next 10, 20, and 50 years.
  • Q3: Rising from This Abyss—Considering your results from the first two questions for at least one of the cities, create a model that would help a city determine a long-term plan to address homelessness. How adaptable is your model to unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters, economic recessions, or increased migrant populations?

The first page of your submission should be an executive summary of your findings, which may be written in the form of a brief to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or to the Minister of State for Housing and Planning. This should be followed by your solution paper, which we recommend not exceed 20 pages in length. Remember to cite your sources, including the provided data file, if you use it. If you choose to write code as part of your work to be eligible for the technical computing prize, please include it either in the body of your paper or in a separate appendix, and check the technical computing box when you upload. Appendices and references/citation pages do not count toward the recommended 20-page limit.

*Another common term for homeless is unhoused, which many feel lessens stigma and highlights that those lacking permanent roofs over their heads may still have communities or physical spaces they consider home. We have chosen to use “homeless” here because it is the term that appears in most resources on the topic.

Data Statement

Various organizations and agencies collect data that may be relevant to this problem. A small amount of data has been compiled and a link to an Excel spreadsheet with four worksheets of data is provided and summarized below. You are not required to use this data; that is, you may choose to use none, some, or all of this data and/or any additional data sources you may identify while working on this problem. Data sets in the real world are often incomplete or contain holes. Be sure to cite all resources used.

If you use this data, please cite it as follows:

A Tale of Two Crises, MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge 2024, curated data, https://m3challenge.siam.org/wp-content/uploads/M3_Challenge_DATA_2024.xlsx.


This problem was written by M3 Challenge Problem Development Committee members Dr. Jen Gorman, Lake Superior State University; Dr. Chris Musco, New York University; and Dr. Neil Nicholson, University of Notre Dame.

Reference and other links included on this page were current and valid at time of original posting; if they are no longer valid or live please look for similar or updated links in context with the referenced topic.