This is how it's done: Airbnb helps those affected by Sandy find free accomodations

By Nathaniel Mott , written on November 7, 2012

From The News Desk

Mother Nature isn't through with the East Coast, it seems, with a dreaded nor'easter bringing snow, rain, and high winds to the streets of New York just one week after Hurricane Sandy left its mark on the city. Those left without homes or electricity already had it bad, and adding snow and ever-lower temperatures to the mix could be fatal.

In an effort to help New Yorkers without shelter find a place to stay, Airbnb has built a new directory that makes it easy to find a place to stay. For free.

At the time of writing, 110 Airbnb users have opened their homes to people who need shelter, and that number continues to increase. Users are asked to enter their house's (or apartment's, natch) data to the server, which will display a $0 asking fee to people in need. A quick glance shows listings available in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn.

Airbnb had previously waived its fees to home owners that made their space available in New York as a sign of goodwill to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, but it wasn't able to tell owners that they should make their space freely available. This led to some complaints – perhaps most noticeably on Businessweek, where Sam Grobart accused one lister of price-gouging – but, because Airbnb is a marketplace, it said that "hosts [have the] freedom to set their own price."

That changed today. While Airbnb still can't force users to make their space freely available, the dedicated listing that politely asks users to help keep someone warm – and possibly alive – is a damned good start. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the initiative during an address to the city that urged elderly people and those with children to stay warm and seek shelter.

This is how you help a city. Instead of trying to profit off a dire situation, Airbnb has built a platform that makes a show of compassion that much easier.