With over 100,000 people still homeless a week after Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, the situation has become more dire as more bad weather hits the Atlantic seaboard. To that end, Airbnb launched a program with the City of New York to connect those without shelter to people who have extra space.
The system works just the same as when travelers are looking for a place to stay when they are on the road. Users can navigate through Airbnb’s search engine and find available spaces. For hosts, they still are protected by Airbnb’s $1 million host guarantee insurance policy, and they can be as flexible with their availability as they need to be until the program ends on November 30.
Naturally one important question of this Hurricane Sandy relief effort comes up: how do hosts know for sure that their temporary guests were actually affected by Hurricane Sandy? Airbnb leaves it up to the hosts to make that assessment; potential hosts must be clear on the terms and length of the stay, and are tasked with verifying their guests’ situation. Meanwhile the company is collecting credit card information from potential guests as a way to vet them.
Guests, meanwhile, do not pay anything, including the usual fees that Airbnb collects from paying customers. And at the time this was written, there appears to be a decent amount of space. So far over 500 people are opening their homes to those Hurricane Sandy displaced, and a quick search I ran out of curiosity for November 9 through 11 showed me almost 200 potential homes–and assumedly–big hearts.
In the aftermath of Sandy last week, the four-year-old shared housing site reported over 2,500 last minute bookings with more than 4,000 guests given shelter. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, announcing the plan at City Hall, said “This new offering from Airbnb is another great way to match New Yorkers in need with those who have something to give.”
As collaborative consumption sites like Airbnb evolve and mature, it is great to see how firms such as Airbnb can really step it up during such a dire time of need. One commenter on Airbnb’s blog post announcement asked if a studio apartment with an air mattress will do. As the weather gets colder, surely many Hurricane survivors will emphatically say “yes.”
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter.
Image credit: Airbnb