In 2017, Airbnb launched an Open Homes initiative encouraging hosts to open up their homes to displaced people — including immigrants, refugees, and those escaping climate disasters. However, not everybody can afford to open up their homes for free.
Now, Airbnb has introduced a tool to help people who are in need of temporary housing.
“Introducing Donations, a new feature where hosts can donate a percentage of their earnings to nonprofits that connect people with free housing during times of need,” Airbnb tweeted.
Nonprofits will receive 100 percent of the donations gathered through the new initiative. Airbnb has partnered with organizations like the International Rescue Committee, All Hands and Hearts, Make A Wish Foundation, and more.
All donors have to do is select a percentage of their earnings that they want to give. Donors get regular updates letting them know how their contributions have helped people.
Introducing Donations, a new feature where hosts can donate a percentage of their earnings to nonprofits that connect people with free housing during times of need.
— Airbnb (@Airbnb) May 1, 2019
Airbnb claims that if all hosts in the United States donated just 1 percent of their earnings, it could help 2 million people.
However, the initiative is a little ironic because Airbnb is often responsible for displacement on a local level. A January 2018 report by the McGill University School of Urban Planning found that NYC’s long-term median rent rose 1.4 percent in the past three years because of the reduction in housing supply.
In February 2018, New York City even subpoenaed the company for information on 20,000 listings to ensure short-term rental laws weren’t being violated.
Other cities have come up against Airbnb to protest its role in displacement and gentrification. A report from the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative in New Orleans found that short-term rentals exacerbate the city’s housing crisis.
“Airbnb pretends they are a home-sharing service, that their users are homeowners who are making ends meet by renting out their homes. But our report exposes that lie. What is happening in New Orleans is not home-sharing, but the hotelization of residential housing,” Program manager Breonne DeDecker told The New Orleans Advocate.
Airbnb continues to develop programs to help those displaced by larger policies or climate disasters. However, it’s also important for companies to be aware of and rectify their own impact within cities.