Airbnb extends Hurricane Harvey ‘free housing’ program

Posted at 6:36 PM, Aug 29, 2017

Airbnb is continuing its effort to help those displaced by Tropical Storm Harvey.

The short-term rental service said Tuesday it is expanding itsdisaster response program.

Before the hurricane struck Texas as a Category 4 hurricane late last week, the company announced it would give Airbnb hosts in surrounding areas the opportunity to offer free housing to those who may need it. The program, originally planned to run until September 1, will now continue through September 25.

Airbnb is also rolling out the effort to more neighborhoods in Houston, which has been significantly impacted by flooding. It has also extended the effort to more zones in Austin and Dallas.

Tropical Storm Harvey is expected to displace about 30,000 residents, but 450,000 people are projected to seek some form of relief as a result of the natural disaster.

Airbnb’s disaster response program, which launched in 2012 in response to Hurricane Sandy, relies on the graciousness of local hosts opening up their homes to strangers. The company emails hosts in areas close to disaster zones about the program, giving them the option to add their listing to its program database. So far, there are roughly 340 listings posted for Harvey evacuees.

If a place is booked under the program, Airbnb waves the service fee typically charged of hosts (3%) for listings. As with standard bookings, hosts are covered by Airbnb’s “host guarantee,” which protects them in the instance of property damage.

“We encourage hosts in safe, inland areas to aid in this effort by listing their available rooms or homes on the platform to help the growing number of evacuees,” Kellie Bentz, Airbnb’s head of global disaster response and relief, said in a statement.

Other companies with local presences in Texas are also doing their part to aid in relief efforts. Uber is donating $300,000 of rides, food, and supply deliveries to the families and communities affected by Harvey, a spokesman told CNN Tech. It’s working with officials to understand where these services can be most helpful.

Meanwhile, Lyft has added American Red Cross as a partnerto its “Round Up and Donate” program. This gives riders the option to round up ride fares to the nearest dollar and donate to Harvey efforts through the end of September. Lyft is donating $100,000 to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, as well as hosting local supply drives in Austin and San Antonio.