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Today, about 30,000 hosts have signed up on, the company’s philanthropic site, to provide free accommodation, according to an Airbnb spokesperson. That figure already exceeds the 20,000 Afghan refugees hosted by Airbnb who extended free or discounted housing until last summer.’s goal of providing housing for 100,000 Ukrainian refugees would be equal the total number of people helped during crises between 2017 and 2021 combined.

The nonprofit arm of the company has slowly built the infrastructure to help more people fleeing natural disasters, war and other crises over the past decade. Airbnb’s work began in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit and a host wanted to offer free temporary accommodation. Shortly after, Airbnb spear a tool that allowed hosts to offer their accommodation to people displaced by natural disasters. After that, Airbnb began offering free or discounted housing to people fleeing conflicts like the Syrian refugee crisis and disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. By 2020, broken in the company’s own philanthropic arm focused on these efforts.

After nearly every crisis, began tweaking its free housing assistance process to ensure the offer would be, say, free, and to make sure hosts felt comfortable enough to open their house.

Pay for accommodation

In 2012, Airbnb first decided to offer people free accommodation. Hurricane Sandy had just hit and the company couldn’t waive its reservation fee because its website hadn’t been programmed to allow people to rent rooms for free. Ian Logan, then an Airbnb payments engineer, adjusted the website to allow people to book rooms for free. After rewiring the site, the hosts listed over 1,000 places for free.

Today, people looking to offer free housing sign up through From here the hosts are bound with, where they can create and post a listing.

“ and Airbnb, Inc, work very closely together,” Catherine Powell, global head of housing at Airbnb, told Protocol. “Over time, I think what we’ve seen is how supportive our own host community is of each other.” is funded by Airbnb, Inc. and donors, and these funds are used to help hosts pay for free or discounted accommodation. Hosts can also choose to list their listing at a discount or for free once they have self-registered. Last weekend, received more than $1.2 million in donations from individual donors in dozens of different countries, a spokesperson told Protocol.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, people have also used to support Ukrainians. Thousands of nights in Ukraine have been booked in recent days, but people have no intention of staying there. Some have raised concerns that the move is creating fertile ground for scams, and some listings around the country have summer deleted in recent days, but Airbnb did not return Protocol’s request to say why they were removed.

Connecting people with hosts

Powell said providing free housing is only part of the process of assisting people fleeing natural disasters or other crises. Next, needed to find a way to better connect with people in need of housing and ensure that refugees could stay where other refugees were staying.

In 2015, the organization began partnering with organizations like FEMA and Mercy Corps to provide housing for aid workers and others. In 2019, began working with the International Organization for Migration to connect Syrian and Afghan refugees in Romania with housing – a partnership the organization is Continue for relief efforts in Ukraine.

Airbnb has also strengthened protections for hosts who have extended their accommodation to refugees. The company already had some coverage in place for its hosts, but in November Airbnb launched AirCover, which provides hosts with $1 million in host injury protection and an additional $1 million to cover damage to space and guest property. This protection extends to hosts offering free accommodation.

“One of the considerations people have when hosting is, ‘I’m inviting strangers into my home, and what if they damage some of my property?’ Powell said. “It was really important for us to make sure the hosts were aware of this, because it’s a consideration if you’re going to bring strangers into your home.”

Now, is working to verify and onboard hosts, while IOM and other agencies connect with refugees on the ground and book hosts on their behalf.

“What we’ve seen, for example with Afghanistan, is that you’ll have refugees in a certain group size as a family, and they need a certain number of rooms… They want to stay with their community,” Powell said. “We see that a lot. And so the agency can find suitable hosts to book.

Once refugees have settled into accommodation through Airbnb, these organizations can also help connect them to other resources such as schools or work in the country they moved to.

“There are so many pieces going into the facility into a new life, and they don’t know how long that new life is going to last,” she added. “We are only part of it.”

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