Homeless College Students Get Free Airbnb Rentals

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San Jose State University students in need of housing will now be able to stay in an Airbnb for free through a new pilot program. 

Airbnb is partnering with San Jose State University and the Bill Wilson Center to rent out rooms to students who are housing insecure. The rooms will be paid for by a state grant, and Airbnb will waive its usual host and guest booking fees. 

“We are collectively committed to ending the scourge of homelessness among our students, and Airbnb has stepped up in a big way,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, at the program’s launch on Wednesday. 

Patrick Day, vice president of student affairs at San Jose State University, said that even just a few weeks of housing can make a big difference.

“What they’re needing is that short term sort of connection that gets them over that hump, that bridge,” he said. “And so, we’re trying to plug some of those holes.”

When SJSU’s term ends, the dorms will close, which can create problems for those students that struggle to keep up with the Bay Area’s high cost of living.  

“When the dorm shuts down during the holidays, if you can’t afford to live somewhere, where do you go?” asked Bill Wilson Center Board President Ron Ricci. “This is filling that gap, specifically during that period when college students don’t have a dorm room to sleep in.”

Airbnb recognizes that college students are struggling to keep up financially, not just during the holidays and not just in California, but all the time and across the nation. 

“This is a national challenge,” said Chris Lehane, senior vice president of global policy and communications at Airbnb. “We want to help provide that support. We’ll learn from that and then begin to apply those lessons back to here, so that this program keeps on going as we move forward.”