Airbnb to provide free housing for bushfire survivors

Australia: Airbnb has stepped in to offer homes free of charge to those affected in New South Wales and Victoria following daily growth of the Australian bushfires.

The company’s Open Homes initiative, started in response to Hurricane Sandy, is offering temporary relocation to those affected through a pair of online landing pages specific to the bushfires.

The bushfires, worst seen by the country in decades, have thus far claimed 24 lives, according to CNN, as well as over 2,000 homes in New South Wales, the area hardest hit. Speculation on possible causes for the intensity include drought, heatwaves and strong winds, all of which, experts say, have been worsened by climate change.

“Like everyone we feel really helpless watching the news and hearing the stories,” said Geelong resident Kylie in the Geelong Advertiser. “Others should consider opening their house especially if they don’t know how to help or can’t make a physical or cash donation. You might be able to help them and provide them a chance to gather themselves and process their personal tragedy.”

The open homes programme is currently open until 16 January in both Victoria and New South Wales. It is designed to help both dislodged locals as well as relief workers find temporary housing until major crises are resolved.

In concert with its donations scheme and its own individual contributions, the company has hoped to provide relief and community for those in their darkest hour.

Holiday rentals in the area currently face uncertainty, due to the impact bushfires have had on both properties and on property owners. While holidaymakers are currently seeking potential recourse after fires have interfered with bookings, some short-term rental home owners are concerned that impact from the fire will change their relationships with booking websites, such as Airbnb.

To access the Open Homes bushfire programmes in New South Wales and Queensland, visit the websites here and here.