Airbnb Letter to Pasadena re COVID-19

2020-03-26 - Airbnb letter to Pasadena re_ COVID-19 (2)

Chris Lehane

Senior Vice President, Policy & Communications


888 Brannan Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

March 26, 2020

Honorable Mayor Terry Tornek

Pasadena City Hall

100 Garfield Ave

Pasadena, CA 91101

Dear Mayor Tornek: 

On behalf of our global community, I want to say thank you for your leadership during this unprecedented crisis.

For the last decade, Airbnb has been proud to partner with cities and governments around the globe to generate new streams of tax revenue, create economic opportunity and support neighborhood-owned businesses. As such, we want to share the latest steps Airbnb has taken to protect our hosts, guests, and the communities in which we operate in response to this crisis, as well as some of the partnerships we have launched with governments globally.

More than anything, we want you to know that we are here to help.

Accommodations for COVID-19 Responders

Medical workers and first responders are providing lifesaving support during the coronavirus outbreak and we want to help. Today, Airbnb is announcing a new global initiative to help connect 100,000 COVID-19 responders with safe and convenient places to stay while they carry out their critical work.

Airbnb will be working with businesses, nonprofits and government & emergency management agencies supporting these responders. Hosts can opt into the program and have the option of opening their homes for free through Airbnb's Open Homes platform, created in 2012 to meet the needs of people requiring emergency housing. If hosts are not able to host for free, Airbnb will still waive all fees on the stay. Hosts who want to house medical relief workers must meet certain criteria and attest to a number of safety protocols we have developed with leading medical experts as well as following CDC guidelines. 

The initiative builds on a pilot program launched earlier this week in France where Airbnb and the French government announced that doctors, nurses, caregivers and other medical support staff who are responding to the outbreak in the country can access free accommodation through Airbnb. The Airbnb community has already responded to the call, with nearly 4,000 hosts in the country offering their homes after the announcement on Tuesday. 

This follows a long history of generosity on behalf of our host community through the Open Homes program which started with an idea from a host in 2012. After Hurricane Sandy hit New York and tens of thousands of New Yorkers were stranded, one of our longtime hosts decided to offer her home for free to neighbors who were forced to evacuate. We were inspired by her generosity and created the Open Homes program. Since then, the program has expanded to support evacuees, relief workers, medical patients, refugees and asylum seekers and helped house 50,000 total people from 83 different countries.

Airbnb is ready to engage with new public and private partners in locations where COVID-19 responders have accommodation needs. Partners can learn more at

Prioritizing Public Health

Airbnb's number one priority is the safety and health of our global community, across the 100,000 cities and 220 countries and regions in which we operate. In that spirit, we've urged our community to follow official guidance regarding all prevention measures. 

We have been clear that our hosts and guests should not use Airbnb listings in ways that violate state and local policies on social distancing. And continue to provide updated informational resources and guidance to our hosts and guests.

Accommodations for those Sheltering in Place

Some Airbnb guests are using our listings as temporary shelters. They include vulnerable senior citizens and other guests in long-term stays for extended work assignments, family needs, and medical treatment. Many of these guests are now stranded, by shelter-in-place orders and restricted travel options. Airbnb is working with them, and their hosts, to provide a home away from home, so that they can avoid travel that might imperil their health and public health. Their continued use of Airbnbs as their shelter is in the best interests of public health. When considering policies and orders, we ask that governments keep these individuals in mind. 

We also ask that governments include short-term rentals in any lodging exemptions given to hotels and motels. Short-term rentals are uniquely positioned to help in this crisis, as the properties are often more isolated and allow occupants to more effectively distance themselves from others than may be possible in hotels. 

Moving Forward Together

Thank you again for your leadership during this time of domestic and global crisis. We at Airbnb stand ready as a committed partner. Together, I am confident we will overcome, recover, and rebuild a world where anyone can belong anywhere.


Christopher Lehane

Senior Vice President, Policy & Communications



Honorable Councilmembers

Steve Mermell, City Manager

Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, Director of Public Health and Health Officer