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Airbnb Expands Free Housing Program for Irma Evacuees

September 21, 2017 - 3:00pm

Airbnb is expanding a program offering free housing for victims of Hurricane Irma to the entire state of Florida.

The popular homesharing site, which allows residents to rent out single rooms or entire residences, recently activated its Disaster Response Program to lend a helping hand to those who may be without lodging post-Hurricane Irma.

Through the Disaster Response Program, Airbnb will locate temporary housing for evacuees and displaced people seeking shelter following the storm.

The program offers short-term stays for people in need -- at no cost.
Working with state and local officials, Airbnb activated the Disaster Response Program earlier this month before Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys. 
Through the program, Airbnb hosts volunteer to offer up rooms -- or in some cases, entire homes -- to people displaced by disasters for free. Fees and taxes are also waived, paid for by Airbnb.
People who are not affiliated with the company can also sign up to offer up their homes simply by signing up as a host on the site, whose usage has skyrocketed in recent years. 
Initially, volunteer hosts in Florida and Georgia were eligible to participate in the program, with most of the hosts required to live in the northern part of the state. 
With the program’s new expansion, large metro areas like Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Palm Beach and Fort Myers can all now participate in lending a helping hand to those in need. 
Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys, is the only ineligible area for the program.
The expansion was again made in close consultation with local emergency management officials, who have determined it is safe for Airbnb to activate our disaster tool throughout the state now that the storm has passed.
The expansion is also available for emergency relief workers who are helping in recovery efforts, particularly those working  in Monroe County, which was most significantly impacted by Irma. 
Irma slammed much of Monroe County with monstrous wind speeds and high storm surge as a Category 4 hurricane,  knocking down power lines and in some cases, completely destroying homes and flooding many others. 
So far, more than 230 temporary residences have been set up across Florida. 

The program is also running strong in Texas, where more than 1,000 Airbnb hosts have offered their homes up to those recovering from Hurricane Harvey, which left portions of the state -- particularly the Houston area -- entirely underwater while devastating other regions.
The company said it plans to offer free lodging for displaced Floridians through the end of the month and expects the number of offered spaces to increase as more people have their electricity restored and get back online.
“This has been one of the largest responses to date for Airbnb’s Disaster Response Program,”  aid Kellie Bentz, Airbnb’s global head of disaster relief. “This number continues to grow, and is a testament to the strength of the Airbnb community-- it is literally neighbors helping neighbors, across communities and states, and it’s great to see.”


Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen


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