People around the world can now offer their homes to refugees, homeless people and victims of natural disasters for free as part of Airbnb’s Open Homes initiative.
The platform is a natural extension of the accommodation network’s ongoing disaster relief efforts – encouraging Airbnb hosts to open their homes to people in need.
Previously, the option had only been open to existing members, but the newly launched online platform lets anyone with space to spare sign up.
Open Homes currently has 6,000 listings, and has big plans for its future – hoping to house 100,000 people within five years, with the help of non-profits and relief agencies. Only qualified organisations will have access to book rooms and houses for refugees, with all the listings being completely free to rent. The agencies will also take responsibility for any vetting, assessing and logistics associated with the bookings.
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Airbnb first started exploring the charitable possibilities for its rental network back in 2012, when it encouraged New York hosts to offer victims of Hurricane Sandy a bed for the night. The company used a similar process for subsequent natural disasters, and says it has helped 2,000 people around the world find free emergency accommodation so far.
‘Anywhere in the world where we have a community, we can help people in need within hours,’ Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia told Fortune. ‘In some cases, we can help the community respond to people in need faster than the government.’
Airbnb’ Open Homes platform hopes to be particularly useful for refugees arriving in new countries, who are often forced to find temporary homes while waiting for permanent housing.
The company has taken several strides towards expanding the remit of its rental network, launching its own in-house design studio, Samara, in 2016, and making its first foray into urban planning – with a communal housing centre designed to rejuvenate a small town in Japan.