The short-term rental industry has seen massive growth over the past few years, with its current value exceeding a jaw-dropping 100 billion dollars. As channels like Airbnb anticipate an annual revenue of close to 3.5 billion by the year 2020, some of the industry’s major players are now looking for ways to put their extensive property networks to good use.
In response to last summer’s unprecedented number of natural disasters, including the devastating hurricanes, Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as the catastrophic California wildfires, Airbnb is adding some new elements to their Open Homes program. The Open Homes initiative facilitates free accommodation of people in need during emergencies by partnering them up with willing hosts.
The current mission is to encourage those who wish to help, whether they are regular Airbnb hosts or simply people with a spare property or bedroom, to sign up in advance. With a complete, pre-compiled list of homeowners who are ready to offer temporary housing to evacuees, the process of placing roofs over heads will be smoother and, more importantly, faster.
This initiative is now undergoing a pilot phase, though the original Open Homes program has been around since 2012, inspired by a New York-based Airbnb host who requested permission to welcome people into her home free-of-charge during Hurricane Sandy.
Since Sandy, the United States has lost close to 1000 lives to hurricanes, floods, wildfires, blizzards, and tornadoes, causing authorities to double down on their efforts to persuade those in danger zones to evacuate the area prior to such disasters. Aside from the obvious threats, hurricanes and the like often cause dangerous and prolonged power outages, leaving residents trapped with no electricity for days, sometimes weeks.
An undertaking like Open Homes significantly reduces the chaos involved in finding alternative accommodations for affected individuals and is already responsible for providing over 17,000 safe nights to people who had to abandon their homes.
In addition to messaging hosts in a proactive effort to recruit “safehouses” before disaster strikes, Open Homes will also provide preparedness training and launch a digital campaign to raise awareness about this important, life-saving venture.
The Airbnb shelter program for emergency housing for families is currently confined to San Jose, California, selected to host the trial run due to its recent experience with severe flooding and subsequent dependence upon Airbnb to find homes for displaced individuals. However, the plan is to stretch the reach of Open Homes across the US, and ultimately, the world, in an effort to shelter as many people as possible when they need it most.
***Click here for more information about the Open Homes initiative and to see how you can get involved.