Airbnb Inc. is encouraging hosts to offer up free housing to Florida and Georgia residents forced to evacuate from Hurricane Irma, the Category 5 storm that's expected to drop down into the state's southern region by Sunday.
As part of the vacation rental site's Disaster Relief Program, Airbnb is waiving all service fees to book select properties on the site between Sept. 6 and Sept. 28. The company is encouraging residents who live outside the path of the storm to offer up their homes for free, including those who live in Florida's Leon County, Calhoun County, Franklin County, Jackson County, Liberty County, Galsden County, Gulf County, Wakulla County, Madison County, Jefferson County and Taylor County. The company is also encouraging hosts in Georgia's Decatur County, Grady County and Thomas County to list their properties for free.
"We are hopeful that our host community will be able to make the evacuation process easier for residents and their families," said Kim Rubey, Airbnb's global director of social good, in a statement. "Our thoughts are with everyone who might be impacted by the storm, and we thank the dedicated government and emergency response personnel who are keeping our communities safe."
Airbnb took similar measures during Hurricane Harvey, the monstrous storm that rocked Houston less than a week ago. About 1,000 homes were made available for free to Harvey victims and urgent accommodations are still open for evacuees until Sept. 14. Hosts continue to offer up free housing in New Orleans, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and other areas.
The Disaster Relief Program was first conceived in 2012 during aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and has since been activated 75 times worldwide and for other natural disasters including Hurricane Matthew. Airbnb said the program has also helped provide shelter to volunteers working in disaster zones.
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Expedia Inc.'s (EXPE) HomeAway said it would also be offering services for those expecting to be in the path of Hurricane Irma. A HomeAway spokesperson said the vacation rental marketplace would have a temporary housing page up by tomorrow.
"We will indeed be launching efforts to encourage vacation rental owners and managers to donate and/or discount their properties, if unaffected by the storm, to evacuees and rescue workers," said Adam Annen, a spokesperson for HomeAway, in an email.
Like Airbnb, Austin-based HomeAway waived or provided discounted fees for evacuees in the path of Hurricane Harvey. As of Thursday, there were still 87 properties offering to shelter Harvey victims.
South Florida residents are currently bracing for Hurricane Irma, a life threatening storm that tore through Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean starting on Wednesday. The National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Irma could be "potentially catastrophic" and one of the strongest storms ever measured in the Atlantic Ocean. Miami was already preparing for its largest evacuation on Thursday, after Florida Governor Rick Scott warned residents that Hurricane Irma is poised to be stronger than Hurricane Andrew, the Category 5 storm that ripped through the state in 1992.
President Donald Trump has also declared a state of emergency for South Carolina. The storm is expected to make its way there by early next week and could possibly head toward North Carolina next.