- The City of San Jose, CA has teamed up with Airbnb to create Host Corps, a pilot program to encourage homeowners to rent their residences as free, temporary housing after natural disasters.
- San Jose is working with the short-term rental company to recruit program participants through a digital campaign, in-person events and coordination with local organizations.
- This is the first time Airbnb has worked with a city to proactively recruit disaster hosts. The initiative expands on Airbnb's Open Homes program, which was created after one Brooklyn, NY resident offered her home for free when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, sparking a movement. Since then, Open Homes has helped shelter 15,000 people in times of need.
Last week, Airbnb activated its Open Homes program in Florida, Alabama and Georgia to help those affected by Hurricane Michael. Storm victims and emergency responders are provided free shelter through the end of the month — based on assessed need — and Airbnb will expand or alter the program as it sees fit, with input from local authorities.
Although the Open Homes program already exists on a global scale and is activated on an ad hoc basis, San Jose's Host Corps will recruit localized program participants in advance of activation. Plus, participants don't have to be Airbnb hosts to offer their homes as emergency shelter. Spreading the word about the initiative and recruiting people to take part could help with preparedness and smoother program activation once a disaster does strike. San Jose experienced its own hardship last year during floods that displaced 14,000 residents.
"With floods and fires becoming all-more-frequent occurrences, we must utilize every tool available to ensure we’re prepared to house residents displaced during a disaster," San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement.
Although some cities currently have contentious relationships with short-term rental companies and blame them for shrinking housing capacity and driving up prices, this is a positive partnership to help communities. It could lead to further municipal partnerships and become a part of cities' emergency preparedness plans.