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NYC could save $3.5 billion on migrant costs with housing vouchers: new report

Michael Gartland, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

NEW YORK — New York City could save up to $3.5 billion in migrant housing costs if it and the state government expand access to housing vouchers, a new report from the homeless services provider Win revealed Monday.

To realize some of those projected savings, Win, a non-profit headed by former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, is recommending the city implement already approved expansions of the CityFHEPs voucher program and further extend voucher eligibility to migrant families now prohibited from tapping into that assistance. The city would shift spending from emergency shelters and hotels under the plan.

The non-profit’s most recent savings projections come as Mayor Eric Adams’ administration is continuing to struggle with an approximately $10 billion price tag associated with the migrant crisis and as asylum seekers continue to flow into the Big Apple.

“We are two years into the asylum-seeker crisis, and the need for a coordinated and compassionate response across all levels of government has never been more urgent,” Quinn said. “That’s why policy solutions like expanding housing vouchers, increasing access to employment and upholding right to shelter are the common-sense measures we need right now.”

Under a court settlement reached in March, the city’s right to shelter law was modified to allow the city to deny housing to adult migrants in some cases. Quinn said Monday the impact of that modification still isn’t totally clear, but she urged the administration to implement it in a way that errs on the side of compassion when it comes to providing shelter to migrants.

Win’s report, which was provided to the Daily News on Monday, includes policy prescriptions for the federal and state governments as well. It calls on the feds to shorten the wait time for asylum seeker work authorization and for state lawmakers to pass a law that would allow the state to issue its own work permits to migrants.

Adams’ spokeswoman Kayla Mamelak pushed back on the idea that the savings projected by Win can actually be realized under the current conditions and contended it would actually cost the city more.

“With more than 11,000 households with CityFHEPS vouchers already in the city shelter system unable to find housing and a rental vacancy rate of just 1.4 percent, a historic low in the last 60 years, the Council’s bill will only make it harder for New Yorkers in shelter to move into permanent housing,” she said. “At the same time, this legislation threatens to add $17 billion onto the backs of our taxpayers. Any insinuation that this legislation would somehow save the city money is just not based in fact.”


Mamelak added that the administration agrees with Win in its recommendations that the federal and state governments should take a more central role in managing the crisis, but she did not address Win’s push to extend housing voucher eligibility to migrants.

An expansion of City FHEPs benefits was already enshrined into law last year when the City Council overrode the mayor’s veto of a bill package abolishing a rule requiring people stay in homeless shelters for 90 days before they can apply for the vouchers. The legislation also expanded eligibility by allowing those who’ve received written rent demands from their landlords to apply for the benefits.

Those new laws haven’t been implemented by Adams’ administration, though, which has argued the laws would be too expensive, predicting they’d cost the city $17 billion over the next five years,. That led the Legal Aid Society to sue the city in February to force it to enact them — a suit the Council moved to join days later. That litigation is now pending.

According to Win’s estimates, implementing those bills would save the city as much as $730 million and relieve the strain incoming migrants have placed on the city’s shelter system.

Quinn and Win are also pushing both the city and state for a much broader eligibility expansion that would include migrants. Such a move could save up to $3.1 billion a year in cash that now goes to housing asylum seekers in city shelters and hotel stays, which can cost up to $400 a night, Win estimates.

Spokespeople for Adams and Hochul did not immediately respond when asked about Win’s findings.

With Téa Kvetenadze

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