Many of those displaced by Hurricane Sandy — and harried by unforgiving weather since — are sleeping anywhere they can these days. Local shelters have opened their doors to residents hit by the storm, and FEMA will kick in funds for rental housing, for those who can find it. But while such centralized systems for housing people can easily become overwhelmed in the weeks following a disaster of this magnitude, ordinary citizens have teamed up with the City of New York to offer temporary housing of their own through Airbnb.
Triple Pundit reports that in the aftermath of Sandy last week, the four-year-old shared housing site reported over 2,500 last minute bookings with more than 4,000 guests granted shelter. There is no FEMA application to fill out here, and no rental fee, as homeowners are donating the space to victims of the storm out of the goodness of their hearts.
Which does, of course, raise the question of vetting — how do homeowners really know that those who come to stay with them are victims of Sandy? To put it succinctly, they don’t: Airbnb trusts its hosts to make the call, as they’re the ones who have to be clear upfront on the terms of their guests’ stay, and the length of it, as well as their overall situation (though the company is collecting credit card information from potential guests as a way to vet them).
And yet, that’s the beauty of a system like this, which gets bureaucracy out of the way at critical junctures and trusts people to help people. As of Monday, Nov. 12, there were nearly 800 people committed to opening their homes to those displaced by Hurricane Sandy on the Airbnb website.
While the Airbnb program for New York may not be a long term solution in most cases, it certainly is green, in that it makes use of existing, unused spaces in existing homes (rather than, say, shoddily built trailers that off-gas formaldehyde.)