The average nightly cost of housing homeless people in commercial hotel rooms in NYC surged approximately 600 percent between November 2015 and this February, according to the latest analysis from Comptroller Scott Stringer's office. According to the report, the average cost increased from $82,214 to $576,203 per night, city-wide.
The highest room rate documented between last October and this February was $549, at a hotel near Times Square.
"Hotel rooms are not only a Band-aid solution to a complex problem, but they're also very expensive," Stringer said in a statement. "If families are going to get back on their feet, we need to help get them the services they need."
A vocal critic of Mayor de Blasio's handling of the homelessness crisis in New York City, Stringer has issued multiple reports on the thousands of dollars spent nightly on commercial hotel rooms. Both de Blasio and Stringer have criticized hotel shelters, which are more expensive than traditional shelters, and have fewer resources to boot—no kitchens, for example. But the Department of Homeless Services has argued that hotel shelters are a necessary stopgap measure while the city works to reverse a 35-year trend of steadily increasing homelessness.
Stringer's data is based on hotel room charges made to city-issued credit cards, or "P-cards." February 28th, the last day analyzed, coincided exactly with the launch of Mayor de Blasio's new homelessness plan. In order to reduce reliance on hotel shelters, the mayor announced, the city will open 90 new shelters city-wide.
"The comptroller is behind the curve," said mayoral spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg. "We announced as part of our plan that we will be ending the use of hotels by opening a smaller number of better shelters across the five boroughs, reducing the number of shelter sites by 45 percent."
Rothenberg added that the current average nightly cost per commercial hotel room is $175, and that the city has instated a new policy prohibiting room rentals in excess of $400 per night. Also, according to DHS, certain room rates from the week of New Year's Eve were initial charges that were later reduced (Rothenberg did not clarify how many charges this applied to).
"We recently put into place a plan to further reduce costs and improve services," Rothenberg added.
De Blasio's new shelter plan has been met with considerable pushback in Crown Heights, which is slated to host two of the first new facilities. One of the new shelters, on Bergen Street, has been temporarily blocked in court. Residents filed a lawsuit alleging that their neighborhood already has its share of facilities, and that opening a new shelter would violate fair share criteria in the city charter.
"Because we cannot use these beds, we've been forced to rent commercial hotel rooms," DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn told Gothamist this month.