Chronicle Journal: Finance

Airbnb says it will temporarily house 20,000 Afghan refugees

Brian Chesky AirbnbEric Risberg/AP

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Airbnb will begin housing up to 20,000 Afghan refugees worldwide, the company said Tuesday.

The company and its associated nonprofit, Airbnb.org, will match refugees with hosts who are offering their homes for free or at a discounted rate, it said. Costs are covered by Airbnb, its CEO Brian Chesky, or contributions to Airbnb.org, it said.

Airbnb hosts can provide both short-term and long-term stays to refugees, a spokesperson for Airbnb said. The company is working with resettlement agencies who are in touch with Afghans looking for a place to stay, it said.

Thousands of Afghan refugees have evacuated the capital Kabul amid the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan. White House officials said on Monday that the US had evacuated, or facilitated the evacuation of, 37,000 people since August 14, the day before the Taliban entered Kabul. It's not clear how many were Afghan nationals.

Thousands more people are at Kabul airport trying to flee. The Pentagon said on August 16 that the US would accept between 20,000 and 22,000 Afghan refugees, adding that number could "expand," per The Independent. Experts say the US has been slow to accept refugees this year, in part due to the Trump administration dismantling a resettlement program.

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I hope this inspires other business leaders to do the same. There's no time to waste.

Airbnb, its CEO Brian Chesky, and donors to the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund said they had already committed funds to the resettlement effort. Last week, the funds went to several resettlement agencies, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC), to resettle 1,000 Afghan refugees, including 165 arriving in the US, the company said.

So far, refugees and their families have been settled in properties in Sacramento, Northern Virginia, Cleveland, Dallas, Washington, and New Jersey, an Airbnb spokesperson told Insider.

"In this past week, it has become abundantly clear that the displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees here in the United States and elsewhere is a significant humanitarian crisis," the company said in the announcement. "In the face of this need, our community is ready to once again step up."

It added that it recognizes "that the situation on the ground is fast evolving."

"Airbnb.org will closely collaborate with resettlement agencies and partners to go where the need goes, and evolve this initiative and our support as necessary," it said.

This continues four years of similar programs that have housed refugees in Airbnbs temporarily, it said. Airbnb has also housed people displaced by hurricanes, wildfires, and a mass shooting — most recently, it helped provide housing and tools for frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, it said.

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