Airbnb’s nonprofit arm will offer free, temporary housing for up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing war. The efforts could help bring much-needed short-term relief for the more than 500,000 Ukrainians who have reportedly fled into neighboring countries since the invasion’s onset, though longer-term solutions remain shrouded in uncertainty.
An Airbnb spokesperson said the efforts will initially cover the costs of stays up to 14 days.
“Airbnb.org will stay in contact with NGOs, resettlement agencies and government leaders to understand how we can best support them during this crisis,” the spokesperson said. “Our Airbnb Host community is able to provide both short-term and long-term stays, and Airbnb.org will work with NGOs, resettlement agencies and partners to determine and serve the specific need.”
In a blog post announcing its efforts, Airbnb said funding for the temporary stays will come from the company and donors to the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund as well as “the generosity of [Airbnb] Hosts.” Airbnb added that it will work with local nonprofits to coordinate bookings for refugees.
“We need help to meet this goal,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said on Twitter. “The greatest need we have is for more people who can offer their homes in nearby countries, including Poland, Germany, Hungary and Romania.”
This isn’t Airbnb’s first attempt at offering temporary stays for refugees. Last year, the company said it would provide short-term housing for 20,000 Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan following the U.S. military’s withdrawal. At the time, Chesky referred to the displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees as, “one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time.” Airbnb has since said it met that goal and intends to house an additional 20,000 refugees under the program.
The San Francisco-based company has shown more of a willingness to wade into political and moral issues—both domestic and international—than some of its other Silicon Valley counterparts. Back in 2017, for example, Airbnb removed users in Charlottesville, Virginia who were trying to book stays as part of the Unite the Right rally. More recently, the company said it would ban users found to have engaged in criminal activity fueling the January 6 Capitol Hill riots. Airbnb also claimed it banned more than 1.4 million users from its platform who refused to sign its nondiscrimination policy.
Meanwhile, the mass exodus of refugees pouring out of Ukraine shows no signs of letting down. An estimated half a million people have already fled their homes to nearby Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania. At the same time, Ukrainian officials have reportedly barred men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country, ordering them to stay and fight under martial law.