The Llano River's floodwaters destroyed a traffic bridge in Kingsland, Texas. Credit: Courtesy / Texas parks and Wildlife

As the waters keep rising due to major flooding throughout Central Texas, Airbnb activated a program Friday to help provide housing for flood victims and relief workers.

Airbnb, the online marketplace for short-term housing, has switched on its Open Homes Program after rising waters in area lakes and rivers have washed away homes and businesses in counties along the Llano and Colorado rivers north of San Antonio.

The program connects displaced residents and relief workers in need of temporary housing with Airbnb hosts who are opening their homes free of charge. The program was started in 2010 after Hurricane Sandy. Most recently, the program was activated in the Florida panhandle in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

According to forecasters with the U.S. Drought Monitor, September 2018 was the wettest September on Texas record. Multiple Central Texas reservoirs are now completely full.

Reports stated Lake Travis took on more water in one week than the entire city of Austin would use in four years, rising 21 feet within two days’ time, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 18 counties in Central Texas, and the LCRA has closed lakes Buchanan, Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls, and Travis until further notice.

Airbnb hosts in more than 50 Texas counties, including Bexar and surrounding counties, are eligible to take part in the program and list their homes for free to evacuees and emergency relief workers.

Airbnb has contacted its hosts within the activation zone to inform them of the disaster response activation and encourage them to participate. A check of the site currently shows nearly 150 hosts have signed up for the program.

The current homes activation area.
The current homes activation area. Credit: Courtesy / Airbnb

No-charge listings are available from Oct. 18 to Nov. 8. Airbnb officials said they continue to monitor the flooding and will evaluate expanding the territory if needed.

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Interested Airbnb hosts and evacuees seeking housing should sign up on the website here. In addition to the free listing price, all Airbnb service fees and state and local taxes are waived.

A flood watch is currently in effect through this evening for Bexar County and 20 other counties in South Central Texas. The National Weather Service reports new rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches, and in some areas up to 5 inches, will continue across the Hill Country on Friday and through the weekend, with heavy rain possible again mid-week.

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is a journalist and writer in San Antonio, and a business reporter for The Rivard Report.