Airbnb presented a new program on Thursday that its CEO called “free” housing for first responders to the COVID-19 epidemic. The program asks hosts – the people who actually own the properties booked through the Airbnb platform – to donate the rental without reimbursement from society and, apparently, to bear the cost of the cleaning protocols recommended by the CDC. The objective is to provide accommodation to 100,000 first responders, according to the company.
At 3:30 p.m. ET, CEO Brian Chesky tweeted that 12,000 hosts had “opened their homes” as part of the program.
Update: 12,000 hosts have now opened their homes to COVID-19 responders. Thank you, hosts.
– Brian Chesky (@bchesky) March 26, 2020
First responders looking for a place to stay – either to be closer to their place of work or to self-quarantine away from their families while they are treating or interacting with COVID-19 patients – can connect with hosts who make their properties available via a new portal that the company has set up. Airbnb says the new initiative is built on pilot programs in France and Italy, which saw 6,000 hosts donate their homes to doctors, nurses, caregivers and other medical support staff.
The program is an extension of Airbnb’s Open Homes program, created in 2012, which allows guests to provide free accommodation in emergency situations. Airbnb waives service charges on these transactions. Hosts don’t have to offer their properties for free, but Airbnb won’t have any fees.
Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s senior vice president for global policy, said by email to The edge that the company anticipates that it will have tens of thousands of hosts opening their homes. “We also invested $ 20 million last year alone in the Open Homes program, including grants and travel credits to non-profit organizations to help fund free temporary housing for people in the need, as well as operating costs, “he said.
He is now seeking donations from the Open Homes fund which will go to “partner organizations”, including the International Rescue Committee, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Medical Corps. The donations “will help fuel even more stays for aid workers while they are doing their critical work.”
Airbnb has created a “solid list of cleaning and security protocols” for hosts participating in the new program, and only complete lists – not shared – are eligible, according to the company.
Airbnb declined to say whether this would help hosts defray the costs of cleaning their properties as directed by the CDC. A spokesperson said in an email to The edge this “Airbnb contributes to non-profit partners, and waiving all associated costs on at least 100,000 stays also contributes millions of dollars in kind. Essentially, any money that Airbnb would have made in these transactions, on both sides, is canceled. “
The spokesperson said that in addition to the usual fee exemptions offered through the Open Homes program, “fees for other COVID-19 responder stays are also waived. For all stays paid for in the program, such as those booked by medical organizations, hosts can always charge their own costs, including cleaning costs. “
Reuters reported Wednesday that Airbnb posted revenue of $ 4.8 billion for 2019 and positive cash flow. The company has $ 3 billion in cash, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, Airbnb hosts would find it difficult to reserve their properties after the company announced that as of March 14, it offer refunds to all guests who canceled reservations until April 14. The company has not offered refunds to hosts under this new policy.
The company stated that under the $ 2 trillion economic stimulus package Passed by the Senate on Wednesday, hosts who are diagnosed with COVID-19, or whose family members are diagnosed, would be eligible to apply for unemployment insurance, Reuters reported. Some Airbnb hosts may be eligible for the small business loans included in the stimulus package to cover real estate costs such as utility payments and mortgage interest, and to pay independent contractors that they can employ to clean up or manage their properties, said Airbnb. Reuters.