Airbnb, NAACP team up to bring home-sharing to communities of color

As part of its ongoing effort to fight criticism that its platform allows discrimination and its business model displaces low-income residents, Airbnb on Wednesday announced a new partnership with the NAACP focused on serving communities of color.

The San Francisco-based home-sharing startup will step up its outreach in those communities with the goal of getting more people to rent out their spare bedrooms, couches or homes to earn extra money. If the program succeeds, the impact will be two-fold — those people will be earning extra cash to help make ends meet, and the effort will bring more travelers into communities that may typically be neglected by tourist dollars.

Airbnb also will share 20 percent of its earnings from this program with the NAACP, and the two partners will collaborate on a series of projects to increase workplace diversity.

“For too long, black people and other communities of color have faced barriers to access new technology and innovations,” Derrick Johnson, interim president and CEO of the NAACP, wrote in a news release.​ “This groundbreaking partnership with Airbnb will help bring new jobs and economic opportunities to our communities. Airbnb’s commitment to that goal is a tremendous step in the right direction for Silicon Valley to opens its doors to African-Americans and other communities.”

Airbnb says its economic footprint already is growing in communities of color. The number of Airbnb guests staying in the 30 New York City ZIP codes with the highest percentage of black residents grew by 78 percent year over year, compared to 50 percent citywide, Airbnb says, citing a 2016 study. The pattern is the same in areas including Chicago’s South Side and Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood.

And, Airbnb says, that growth benefits those communities because up to 50 percent of guest spending occurs in the neighborhoods where they stay.

The Airbnb/NAACP partnership comes as the home-sharing company has struggled with reports that its platform allowed landlords to discriminate against guests based on their race, sexual orientation or other factors. Airbnb in September unveiled new tools to fight discrimination — including introducing more ways to report bias — but some critics said the home-sharing company didn’t go far enough because it refused to remove guests’ pictures from the booking process.

Like many Silicon Valley tech companies, Airbnb also struggles with diversity in its own workforce. Last year just 2.92 percent of the startup’s employees were black or African-American — up only slightly from 2.86 percent the year before.

Photo: Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks during an event in San Francisco on April 19, 2016. (Jeff Chiu/AP)


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