Airbnb Is Offering Free Housing For First Responders

The temporary housing could benefit workers who want to live closer to their work site, or self-isolating from families or roommates.

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The home rental platform Airbnb announced it’s partnering with hosts to provide “free or subsidized” housing for COVID-19 first responders, health care professionals, and relief workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The platform is aiming to accommodate 100,000 workers around the world.

The company said Thursday that it will waive fees for hosts — people who list their properties for rent —  to opt in on providing a safe and convenient place for people working at the front lines of COVID-19. (It must be the entire home, not a shared place.) The program builds on a pilot launched in Italy and France, where 6,000 hosts offered free accommodations, the company said, as well as its Open Homes Program created in 2012 to be a resource during emergencies.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky tweeted on Friday that 20,000 hosts had so far opted in.

While hosts aren’t required to list their properties for free, Airbnb will still waive usual fees associated with listing a rental. The housing could benefit workers who are seeking to live closer to their work site, or are isolating themselves from families or roommates while coming into contact with COVID-19 patients.

The company has also listed COVID-19-specific cleaning guidelines that hosts must follow based on recommendations from agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of the measures include social distancing by avoiding contact during check-in and check-out; providing amenities like antibacterial hand sanitizer and hand soap; and waiting a required 72 hours between stays. The company says it will continue to develop the guidelines as more information becomes available.

Airbnb is also working with organizations including Red Cross, the International Rescue Committee, and the International Medical Corps to best provide housing where it’s most needed. Separately, the company set up a fund for anyone who wants to donate to those organizations that are focused on relief efforts. 

Earlier in March, Airbnb announced that it would allow any guests to cancel their bookings through April 14 for free, but hosts were reportedly upset that they wouldn't receive any financial support. The company told Reuters this week that its hosts could qualify for unemployment benefits from Congress’ $2 trillion relief package, which extends coverage to gig workers and self-employed people.

As of March 27, more than 566,200 coronavirus cases have been confirmed globally, including nearly 93,000 cases in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. More than 25,400 people have died from COVID-19 around the world.