As people outside Ukraine search for ways to support those who are trapped by the current crisis, an odd trend has emerged: booking Airbnb rentals in the country without intending to ever stay there. The idea appears to have originated with a popular meme account as a way to send money to Ukrainians, and it spread from there. As one person who booked a rental told Insider, “I had been wanting to donate but hadn’t found anything that really stuck out to me because I’m not always sure where my money goes, so I wanted to pick a specific person.” (The donations can be small, as many apartments in Kyiv run under $50 per night.)
The well-intentioned donations come, of course, with a wave of good press for the multibillion-dollar short-term rental company. The Guardian reported that Airbnb is waiving its fees in Ukraine, and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky tweeted out the trend, framing the donations as an effort to help “Hosts”:
The company, which is often accused of pricing out long-term residents and creating its own crises of displacement, has announced it will be offering free housing to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, an effort funded through “Airbnb, Inc., donors to the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund, and the generosity of Hosts through Airbnb.org.” Airbnb first began its relief program during Hurricane Sandy, something it later advertised while the company was being investigated by the city’s attorney general for illegal listings.