San José and Airbnb Partner to Provide Emergency Temporary Housing

A man walks down a flooded street in South Bay Mobile Home Park in San Jose, Calif. on Feb. 22, 2017.

A man walks down a flooded street in South Bay Mobile Home Park in San Jose, Calif. on Feb. 22, 2017. Jeff Chiu / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

After severe flooding last year, the city hopes to have shelter lined up ahead of time for the next disaster.

San José and Airbnb announced Thursday plans to recruit and prepare residents of the California city to provide free, temporary housing ahead of disasters like floods and earthquakes.

The first-of-its-kind Host Corps initiative expands on the home-sharing company’s Open Homes program—begun in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast—which is currently helping people displaced by Hurricane Michael arrange shelter.

In 2017, San José witnessed historic flooding that forced about 14,000 evacuations and severe damage. That experience is behind the partnership.

“It was a real challenge to find [housing],” Shireen Santosham, the city’s chief innovation officer, told Route Fifty. “There was a number of families and displaced folks caught between a rock and a hard place.”

In the aftermath, about 2,000 volunteers helped with cleanup, inspiring city officials to scale Open Homes.

City residents can sign up to be hosts via the Open Homes website, but unlike that program, you don’t need to be an Airbnb host to participate. And evacuees can also be housed.

Airbnb offers hosts $1 million worth of insurance for assisting.

Next the city is planning a marketing and awareness campaign for Host Corps, with the understanding more emergency housing will still be needed.

“It’s certainly not a silver bullet solution for a natural disaster,” Santosham said.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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