Report: Expanding Housing Vouchers to Asylum Seekers Could Save New York City $3 Billion Annually

NYC is Paying $383 Per Night to House Asylum Seekers in Shelters — Compared to Housing Vouchers that Could Cost Just $50 to $72 Per Night

With NYC Predicting a $12 Billion Price Tag Over Three Years, Expanding Housing Vouchers to All New Yorkers Regardless of Immigration Status Could Significantly Cut Asylum Seeker Costs

Click HERE to Read the Full Report

New York, NY–This month, New York City announced over 110,000 New Yorkers are living in homeless shelters, including 58,000 immigrants seeking asylum. With the Mayor’s Office predicting it will cost $12 billion to manage this humanitarian crisis over the next three years, homeless services nonprofit Win and immigrant justice advocacy organization New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) today released a new report that reveals how expanding housing vouchers to undocumented New Yorkers would save the city a whopping $3 billion annually. Win and NYIC are calling on the City or the State to immediately implement this expansion, which would also help the newest New Yorkers exit shelter and free up capacity in our homelessness response system to serve others in need.  

“Permanent housing, rather than short-term stays in emergency shelters, is how people can get on the road to a self-sufficient and stable life. We must remove the barriers and red tape from our shelter system that are prohibitive of supporting our unhoused neighbors from finding secure housing. The City must also expand eligibility to CityFHEPS and other supportive housing vouchers to New Yorkers regardless of immigration status, so the asylum seekers who now call New York home can truly start working towards the American dream. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is also the cost-effective way to tackle New York’s housing and affordability crisis. This analysis shows that moving people into permanent housing costs a fraction of what it costs to keep them in our overburdened shelters. It is time for Mayor Adams to move the City out of an emergency response, and into a long-term approach that will allow all New Yorkers to not just survive but thrive,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.

“New York City is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with enough homeless New Yorkers to fill every seat in Yankee Stadium — twice. Our safety net is being stretched beyond its limits as we struggle to support tens of thousands of asylum seekers who are fleeing violence and searching for a better future for their families, and the first step must be helping them permanently leave shelter,” said Christine C. Quinn, President & CEO of Win. “We know housing vouchers are one of the most effective tools we have to support people as they move into permanent homes. This analysis shows that expanding housing vouchers to undocumented New Yorkers wouldn’t just open up shelter capacity, but would also save New York City $3 billion each year. Expanding housing vouchers is the right thing to do from a human and a financial perspective — and we urge the City and State to immediately embrace this common-sense solution.”

The report from Win and NYIC details how expanding housing subsidies would help tens of thousands of undocumented New Yorkers leave shelter and find permanent housing. This would, in turn, free up shelter capacity — which is currently at less than one percent for families with children — and create enormous savings for the city. 

As the analysis outlines, there are more than 25,000 migrant households in the City’s care, most of which are being housed in emergency hotels that cost an average of $383 per night. As a result, the annual cost of sheltering these newest New Yorkers totals $3.58 billion dollars. Housing vouchers, on the other hand, cost between $50 and $72 per night, depending on the specific program. That means housing migrants seeking asylum in permanent apartments with housing vouchers would produce savings of $311 to $333 per household per night — or an annual savings of $2.9 to $3.1 billion per year. These savings could be realized by expanding New York City’s CityFHEPS housing voucher to New Yorkers regardless of immigration status or if the State enacted the Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP).

Leveraging housing vouchers for undocumented New Yorkers experiencing homelessness can also lead to future savings through decreased reliance on the health care, corrections, and emergency shelter systems, which may be close to or above the cost of rental assistance and services. 

According to New York City data, housing vouchers are incredibly effective. In FY22, over 30,000 households gained or maintained permanent housing with CityFHEPS, the city’s most widely used voucher program. Less than 1 percent of families with children who exited shelter with a voucher returned within one year, compared to 15 percent of those who did not have vouchers.