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Airbnb will let hosts sign up to donate emergency housing before a disaster

Last year, Airbnb unveiled a program called Open Homes, designed to allow Airbnb hosts to provide emergency housing after a disaster. Homeowners can allow refugees or evacuees to find housing on a short notice — for free. The company is now expanding that program (via Techcrunch) with a pilot project that will allow hosts to list their properties ahead of a disaster.

The idea is to streamline the response to a disaster by allowing hosts to sign up in advance, so that when a disaster does strike, those in need don’t necessarily have to wait for said hosts to come forward in the aftermath. Presently, the program matches up users willing to donate space with emergency managers, who can then connect people who need housing with available space.

Airbnb hopes that having a list prior to a disaster will allow for a quicker response from its users. The program also comes with some “in person preparedness training and recruitment events” for hosts, as well as a marketing campaign and new protocols for communicating with local emergency management to match up available space with those who need it.

Airbnb made the announcement at this year’s US Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in Boston. The pilot project is launching first with the city of San Jose, California, and the company says that it’ll be looking to expand to other cities as well. Given the rocky relations that the company has with some cities, the project has the ability to create a considerable amount of goodwill: it says that since the program launched in 2017, its collective community has donated 17,000 nights for those in need.

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