20% Of New York City Hotels Are Now Migrant Shelters

In late 2022, as thousands of migrants began to arrive in New York City, city officials scrambled to find places to house them. They quickly found takers: hotels that were still struggling to recover from the pandemic-driven downturn in tourism.

Dozens of hotels, from once-grand facilities to more modest establishments, closed to tourists and began exclusively sheltering migrants, striking multimillion-dollar deals with the city. The humanitarian crisis became the hotel industry’s unexpected lifeline in New York; the hotels became a safe haven for tens of thousands of asylum seekers.

The average daily rate for a hotel stay in New York City increased to $301.61 in 2023, up 8.5 percent from $277.92 in 2022, according to CoStar, a leading provider of commercial real estate data and analysis. During the first three months of 2024, when prices traditionally dip, the average stay was still 6.7 percent higher than during the same time period last year: $230.79 a night, up from $216.38 in 2023.

The use of city hotels for migrants represents a loss of 16,532 hotel rooms, leaving 121,677 hotel rooms for travelers, according to data compiled by CoStar, a leading provider of commercial real estate data and analysis.

That’s 2,812 fewer hotel rooms than existed in the period just before the pandemic — a shortage that is being acutely felt.

About 65,000 migrants are being sheltered in hotels, tent dormitories and other shelters, in large part because of the city’s legal obligation to provide a bed to anyone who needs one. The city projects it will spend $10 billion over three fiscal years on the migrant crisis.

Other factors, including some driven by policies that Mayor Eric Adams and his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, supported, have also contributed to higher room rates.

In September, city officials began to enforce a new law meant to curb the proliferation of short-term rentals, such as those listed on Airbnb, which used to account for over 10 percent of all tourist accommodations in the city. The crackdown obliterated most short-term Airbnb listings — a phenomenon that some observers said might have had an even larger impact on hotel rates than the migrant crisis.

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