Airbnb announces plan to offer free housing to coronavirus responders
By Lilit Marcus, CNN
(CNN) -- As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect people all over the globe, Airbnb has stepped up with a plan to offer free or subsidized housing to people working on the disease's front lines, namely health care professionals, emergency workers and relief personnel.
"Medical workers and first responders are providing lifesaving support during the coronavirus outbreak and we want to help," Airbnb cofounder Joe Gebbia said in a statement.
"We've heard from countless hosts around the world who want to provide a comforting home to heroic first responders. We are connecting our nonprofit partners, government agencies and others with our incredible host community to work together in these extraordinary times."
Homes and apartments made available through this program will need to meet a standard of cleanliness determined by Airbnb-selected medical experts.
The company's goal is to house 100,000 of these workers around the world. Both emergency workers who are looking for accommodations and hosts who would like to make their properties available can visit an Airbnb portal designed specifically for that purpose.
A version of this initiative began last week in France, where the government and Airbnb worked together to find 4,000 hosts willing to let medical personnel like doctors, nurses and caregivers stay in their accommodations for free.
This doesn't mean that every single listing on Airbnb will immediately be up for grabs, though. It will still be up to individual hosts to decide if they want to donate the use of their accommodation.
"Hosts can opt into the program and have the option of opening their homes for free through Airbnb's Open Homes platform, created in 2012 to meet the needs of people requiring emergency housing," the company explains, adding: "If hosts are not able to host for free, Airbnb will still waive all fees on the stay."
Earlier this month, Airbnb expanded its "extenuating circumstances" policy, which permits guests to cancel or alter their bookings without paying a fee in the event of a natural disaster or emergency.
This move came in light of the fact that many travelers were trying to get home or otherwise change their plans as coronavirus spread throughout the world and many countries and municipalities introduced travel bans or quarantines.
Other hospitality companies are also trying to do their part to support people affected by coronavirus.
Hotels around the world, from the Four Seasons in New York City to the Ayre Gran Hotel Colón in Madrid, have become makeshift hospitals or isolation centers.
Many medical workers have opted to isolate from their own families and loved ones due to their heightened risk of exposure to the coronavirus. Others have sought places to stay that are closer to their workplaces, eliminating the need to commute.
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