As thousands of Afghans reach safety through American-led global evacuations from the chaotic airport in Kabul, housing has emerged as the preeminent challenge in many countries. That is what led Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to pledge free housing for 20,000 displaced Afghans on Tuesday.
“The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the US and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time,” he posted on Twitter Tuesday. “We feel a responsibility to step up.”
While Airbnb hosts will ultimately have to agree to accept refugees, Chesky says he feels the program will work. Airbnb has already provided free housing during natural disasters in many countries, starting in 2012 when they hosted more than 1,000 people in New York displaced by Hurricane Sandy. The company reports that it has offered such accommodations to more than 75,000 people worldwide. Airbnb launched an Open Homes project in 2017 that offers renters an opportunity to help their local communities. They have assisted people displaced by the Mexico City earthquake and wildfires in the U.S. and Australia.
“While we will be paying for these stays, we could not do this without the generosity of our Hosts,” he wrote. “I hope this inspires other business leaders to do the same. There’s no time to waste.”
Chesky put out a call to all Airbnb hosts in the popular online community platform to raise their hand if they want to host refugees. The company will then set them up with local NGOs and authorities in their communities to place Afghan refugees in their properties. It was not immediately clear how long Airbnb will pay for accommodations or what obligations the hosts might need to agree to.
The company tweets suggest that the costs will be handled by Chesky’s personal contributions supported by donors to the Airbnb.org Refugee fund, which has aided displaced people in the past. The company also supports the U.S.-based International Rescue Committee, whose president, former UK home secretary David Miliband thanked the group on Tuesday.
“We are grateful to our partners at Airbnb.org and Airbnb for once again offering their support and infrastructure to meet this moment, providing safe and welcoming places for individuals and families as they arrive in the United States and begin rebuilding their lives,” he said.
U.S. military on the ground in Afghanistan have evacuated more than 28,000 people since August 14, the eve of the fall of Kabul. It is thought that at least 10,000 more people will be evacuated before the U.S. withdraws its troops and machinery from Kabul airport on August 31.