The home-sharing service Airbnb is allowing guests to cancel for free over the “extenuating circumstances” of coronavirus travel restrictions, but house-hoarding hosts are huffy about it.
You’ve perhaps seen a video going around the internet (we embedded it below) of a supposed Airbnb host who complains that “we have FIRE boiling through our veins” and “are collectively OUTRAGED” because hosts are losing their shiny dress shirts over cancellations related to the coronavirus travel restrictions and shelter in place orders. The video seems like a fake; it’s just too perfect with the spot-on techie rhetoric, the soul patch, and the exaggerated delivery.
But the situation he describes is accurate. Airbnb did allow guests to cancel for free in an announcement last week. “In response to the extraordinary events and global disruption to travel caused by COVID-19, today we are announcing updated coverage under Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances policy,” the company said, allowing anyone one to cancel with no charge for reservations made before March 14, or with check-in dates before April 14. “Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances policy allows hosts and guests to cancel eligible reservations with no charge or penalty.”
The sudden collapse of AirBNB has been, legitimately, the funniest fucking thing I’ve watched play out this past month. pic.twitter.com/RxBTKLC8gC— Ilhan's Berndam RX-46-2 (@taintberner) March 23, 2020
KPIX reports that this has economically shafted Airbnb hosts, many of whom have ditched their careers to become full-time Airbnb-ers, and were not consulted about the coronavirus-specific policy change. "Basically, they just cut our hands off," host Alba Jones, a manager of Airbnb properties in the East Bay, statewide, and in Mexico, told Business Insider (subscription required). "We had no say in the matter."
Airbnb lobbyists: “our platform has a negligible effect of driving up rental prices in cities”— rat king (@MikeIsaac) March 22, 2020
But the conflict is sweet schadenfreude for anyone who’s argued that Airbnb has been eliminating cities’ housing stock. We do not have current data for San Francisco, but other cities internationally are finding rents are plummeting as unwanted Airbnb apartments return to the normal native rental market.
For their part, Airbnb promises some form of aid to these jilted hosts. “We understand that this announcement will impact hosts around the world, many of whom depend on the economics they generate on Airbnb,” the company said in a statement to KPIX. “We will be working in the days and weeks ahead to identify tools and initiatives to support our hosts during these very challenging times.”
Airbnb is committed to the wellbeing of our hosts, guests & employees. Today we sent a letter to federal lawmakers asking they consider measures to financially support our host community, half of whom depend on their Airbnb income to pay the bills.https://t.co/dCNwhIL5Kd— Nathan Blecharczyk (@nathanblec) March 17, 2020
But Business Insider adds that they’re hoping that money comes in the form of a government bailout, not their own money. The publication says that Airbnb recently lobbied Congress to “offer loans and tax relief to property managers of short-term rental properties.” That seems an insane use of bailout money to anyone who is not currently an Airbnb host, but would skirt responsibility for Airbnb, who lost money last year and are taking an even harder hammering this year. Bloomberg reports they will likely delay their IPO, which was already supposed to have gone public by now.