Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky: We Help Homeowners Dodge Foreclosure

For two years Airbnb tried to sell itself as an innovative solution to America's foreclosure crisis.

The strategy seemed little more than a distraction from claims that Airbnb -- which lets users rent out part or all of their homes -- is nothing more than a good way to catch bed bugs.

But on Thursday, Fortune's Dan Primack actually tracked down some rescued homeowners who say they used rental proceeds to pay down delinquent mortgages.

“I would have lost my house by now if it wasn’t for Airbnb,” Debra Giusti, who left behind an IT job to care for her sick 91-year-old mother, told Primack. “Yes it’s sometimes strange having people you don’t know in the bedroom next to mine, but everyone makes sacrifices for a job. This isn’t traditional work, but it’s paying the bills,” added Giusti, who is now reportedly applying for a job at Airbnb.

Primack noted that Airbnb hasn't produced any verifiable data to back up claims that it has saved thousands from foreclosure. “We’ve made a huge contribution to saving a whole bunch of homes," CEO and founder Brian Chesky told Bloomberg back when he was just 28-years-old in 2010.

Read stories from more struggling homeowners on Fortune's website.

Airbnb ran into trouble last year, when some users came forward with horrific accounts of having their homes vandalized by renters. Several said they were unhappy with AirBnB’s response, prompting Chesky to introduce a policy covering as much as $50,000 in losses or damage due to vandalism or theft for those who rent out their homes using the service.

The financial assurances appear to be working. The four-year-old company hit 10 million bookings in June and 200,000 active properties. About 80 percent of those bookings have come in the past year.

Meanwhile, the recession that drove struggling homeowners onto sites like Airbnb and rival has spawned a generation that opts to rent not buy, according to a recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek report. In 2012, the vacancy rate of U.S. rental properties dropped to its lowest level since 2002.

Correction: This article previously misstated the age of Debra Giusti. She is not 91 years old. Her mother was 91 years old when Giusti left an IT job to care for her, according to Fortune.

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