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Airbnb launches nonprofit to provide stays for essential workers and refugees

Hosts on the platform can provide free and discounted stays as in-kind donations

Airbnb Illustration In Athens Photo illustration by Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Airbnb is launching a nonprofit to allow the hosts who rent out their properties on its platform to provide free and discounted stays to refugees, people affected by natural disasters, and frontline workers in the coronavirus pandemic. The new organization, called Airbnb.org, is the evolution of Airbnb’s Open Homes and Frontline stays programs.

Open Homes started in 2012, inspired by a host who opened her home to people affected by Hurricane Sandy. The company introduced the Frontline stays program earlier this year, as a way to provide first responders a place to stay — either to be closer to work or to quarantine away from their families while treating COVID-19 patients. The company says more than 100,000 hosts worldwide have provided accommodations under the programs. Now, both programs will be called Airbnb.org.

The company says Airbnb hosts who offer free stays or make recurring donations to Airbnb.org will get a special badge on their profiles “to recognize their generosity and commitment to communities in need.” Asked whether Airbnb would reimburse hosts for participating in the program, a company spokesperson said in an email to The Verge that “hosts can choose whether they can provide a free or discounted stay and those are considered in-kind donations” to Airbnb.org.

Airbnb hosts have struggled to book properties during the pandemic, and the company announced in March it would offer refunds to guests who canceled reservations. The company didn’t offer reimbursement to hosts under that new policy and is now facing a proposed class action lawsuit, brought by a Texas host who says the refund policy violated Airbnb’s contract with hosts.

The new nonprofit will partner with relief organizations like the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE). Airbnb also says it will commit $1 million over the next two years to help cover stays for IFRC volunteers and staff “fighting the spread of COVID-19” and $1 million to CORE to support essential workers at COVID-19 testing sites and at future vaccine distribution centers.

The company has committed 400,000 shares of Airbnb stock to support the new nonprofit, and company co-founders Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky, and Nathan Blecharczyk will donate an additional $6 million, the company said.

Airbnb is expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq exchange this week under the ticker ABNB. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the company plans to price shares between $56 and $60 per share on a valuation of as much as $42 billion.