Airbnb unveils program to make 'Open Homes' help more effective

June 12, 2018 11:45
Airbnb is expanding its Open Homes initiative by partnering with the city of San Jose, California in a pilot program where hosts can list their properties and be on standby lists ahead of disasters. Photo: Reuters

Airbnb, the online marketplace that enables people to list or rent homestay accommodation and vacation facilities, is expanding a program that allows its hosts to offer temporary housing free of charge during emergencies such as hurricanes or floods or other disasters.

A pilot project will kick off in partnership with the city of San Jose, California, in a few months that will allow hosts to list their properties and be on standby lists ahead of disasters, TechCrunch reports.

Under an "Open Homes program", which officially began last year, Airbnb hosts offer free-of-charge short term safe housing to people in cities undergoing an emergency including “disasters, wars, conflict, or other factors”.

Now with the new version of the program, Airbnb hosts and other members of the community who are interested in offering such help can sign up in advance to lend their accommodation space.

The pilot project will allow the community to “respond faster, more efficiently, and more effectively”, the accommodation startup said.

"When disaster strikes, one of our greatest needs, and challenges, is to ensure that every displaced resident has a safe place to stay," said Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose.

“We’re thankful for our new partnership with Airbnb, which offers a great example of how government can leverage innovation to add another tool to our disaster response toolbox," he said.

San Jose will be the first location to roll out this initiative. Airbnb will identify other cities which can participate in this new initiative.

According to information posted on Airbnb website, there will be "in-person preparedness trainings and recruitment events” for this new program, which will also cover a “three-pronged digital campaign” comprising media, online communications, and email education to the community.

“A new operational protocol for communications with emergency management teams” will also be developed in the new initiative when "hosts are needed", Airbnb said.

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