Airbnb To The Rescue

Airbnb is offering over 3,000 accommodations in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to Hurricane Matthew evacuees, and they’re absolutely free.

This is all part of the company’s disaster response program, which it activated for Hurricane Matthew on Thursday. Participating hosts—people whose homes are out of the storm’s reach—will open their doors for free until their state’s predicted all-clear date: that’s projected to be October 11 for South Carolina, and the 12th and 13th for Florida and Georgia, respectively. It’s a pretty lovely gesture: There is no financial incentive for the hosts, other than Airbnb waiving small service fees. 

Airbnb has been developing its emergency response strategy since Hurricane Sandy, during which about 1,400 New York Airbnb hosts offered free rooms for hurricane victims of their own accord.

In 2013, the company launched a disaster response tool that makes it easy for hosts to list their accommodations and connect with people stranded by disasters. “This was profound,” says Patrick Meier, a humanitarian technology expert who consults for the World Bank, the Australian Red Cross, and Facebook. “Airbnb changed its code order to allow people to rent out their place for zero dollars, because you could not do that otherwise.”

Since 2013, Airbnb hosts have helped house people displaced by more than 20 disasters, ranging from flooding in Louisiana to earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan to the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. Hosts opening their doors in advance of Hurricane Matthew is only the company’s most recent disaster relief effort.

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