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Homeowners Offer Rental Properties to Frontline COVID-19 Workers

By Tanya Svoboda
May 2020

In a typical year, spring break and summer would be considered peak season for short term rentals in the United States. However, COVID-19 has made 2020 anything but typical. Travel restrictions, combined with social distancing protocol, have forced travelers to cancel their plans, causing rental properties to remain vacant. Some owners of these rental properties, along with the companies that help manage them, are using these unexpected vacancies to provide temporary housing for health care and other essential workers.

Travel Restrictions Have Resulted in Empty Rental Units and Homes

In the past weeks, several states have restricted or closed down the use of short term rentals for the purpose of leisure or vacation. For example, in California, Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson urged short-term rentals to cease all commercial operations. The county’s website states short term rentals may only operate to provide housing for the owner’s family, homeless residents or critical infrastructure workers. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country in Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont issued an executive order reserving short-term rentals and hotels for essential workers only.

What all this means is, owners of these short-term rental units have the unique opportunity to make a difference in the fight against COVID-19 by offering their rental homes or apartments to frontline workers for free, or for a reduced rate.

The Need for Isolated Housing for Frontline Workers Has Increased

As of April 17th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 9,000 cases of COVID-19 amongst health care providers in the U.S. Nurses and doctors alike are looking for ways to keep their family safe. For a Floridian nurse, keeping her family safe means paying for a hotel room every night. She told NBC 6 “I feel uncomfortable going home to my immune-compromised parents.”

One way property owners are linking frontline workers to their available home or apartment is through Airbnb’s Frontline Stays program. The program, which is an extension of services Airbnb was offering in France and Italy, is a response to an outcry from hosts looking for ways to assist in the fight against COVID-19 here in the states.

Through the Frontline Stays program, Airbnb hosts are able to offer up their property for free or, if they are unable to do that, for a small price. Regardless, Airbnb is removing all of its fees from the transactions. Airbnb is requiring hosts to follow strict cleaning guidelines, ensure that their listings have no other people present, and that they allow 72 hours between guests.

There is a sense of helplessness as the country sits back and watches this pandemic play out. It is a unique crisis that brings with it unique ways to help in the fight. Staying home may be one of the most publicized ways to help (and one of the most effective), but as a homeowner, offering your rental home to frontline workers is another practical way to make a difference in the fight against COVID-19.


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