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LaGuardia Community College students sit at a table, talking.

Students experiencing homelessness at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, can receive free short-term housing through a partnership with Airbnb.

Juan Medina-Verdugo, LaGuardia Community College/CUNY

Arthur Dukes is a Harlem native and a liberal arts and science major at LaGuardia Community College, part of the City University of New York system. Dukes is also the star of LaGuardia men’s basketball team, holding the title of the No. 1 scorer in the CUNY system and in the country for Division III Junior College basketball. And, for a brief period this past fall, Dukes was homeless.  

Dukes was evicted from his apartment in the Bronx in September and needed a new place to live. The solution was a little unconventional: an Airbnb in Queens, where Dukes finished the semester, and then help finding longer-term housing.

Dukes is one of 20 students at LaGuardia who have benefited from a recent partnership between the college and Airbnb, offering short-term housing solutions for housing-insecure students to complete the semester at no cost to the participant.

Since early last year, Airbnb has contributed $150,000 to support LaGuardia student rentals for up to $1,700 a month, helping students like Dukes get back on their feet (or, in his case, on the court and in the classroom).

“Stable housing is essential for creating a solid foundation for learning, and we are grateful for the opportunity to partner with LaGuardia Community College to connect students to places they can call home while they pursue their higher education,” says Nathan Rotman, Airbnb’s Northeast policy lead.

By the Numbers

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found, as of spring 2020, around 8 percent of undergraduates had experienced homelessness in the prior year. According to a May 2023 survey from Trellis Research, 44 percent of students were housing insecure, 5 percent explicitly identifying as homeless and 15 percent experiencing homelessness at some point during their college career.

Students at two-year institutions are more likely to be housing insecure, according to Trellis’s survey, with just under half (47 percent) of students without affordable, safe or quality housing.

The background: Housing in New York City is expensive, and that includes student housing in and around the borough of Queens, where LGCC is based. The average rent for a studio is $2,570, $2,320 for a one-bedroom and $3,243 for a two-bedroom apartment in Queens, according to January 2024 data from

Around 300 of LGCC’s 23,000 learners are homeless or housing insecure, says Rhonda Mouton, who directs the LaGuardia CARES (College Access for Retention and Economic Success) office.

“There’s probably no greater obstacle to student success in college than being homeless,” explains President Kenneth Adams. “We’re not going into the dormitory business, so we have to look at third-party solutions.”

The partnership with Airbnb started in late 2022, after a cold period that winter impacted unhoused students sleeping in their cars. Airbnb leaders proposed the solution, which was based on work the organization has done with other institutions, Adams says. That includes a partnership with San Jose State University, which launched in 2019.

How it works: A student is typically referred to Mouton and her office through other departments at LGCC or faculty members, but some learn about the opportunity through word of mouth from past participants.

To determine eligibility, LGCC requires documentation that the student is homeless, such as paperwork from a shelter or a notarized letter from family or friends. After this, staff complete a screening of the student to ensure that they’re enrolled at the college and are employed.

Housing through Airbnb is only step one; the college’s goal is to get students into a more sustainable solution to support them through graduation, so employment is a key piece to ensure students are ready to move on to the next phase after their Airbnb stay.

Participants agree to complete a financial literacy course and meet with a financial aid counselor.

Once admitted to the program, students can stay until the end of the academic semester. For most students, that’s around three months, but some early participants spent between five and six months in an Airbnb stay.

Students select their residence using the Airbnb website, and Airbnb pays the host directly with a voucher. Mouton’s team helps guide students through the process, but ultimately they are responsible for their housing situation, which is designed to empower them for their longer-term solution after.

“It’s like a bridge program, bridging the student to get to graduation so they can continue their studies, [and] at the other end of the bridge, we help you find an affordable place to live,” Adams says.

Housing Solutions

As the cost of living continues to grow nationally, higher education institutions look into creative solutions to provide for housing-insecure or homeless students.

  • Fort Lewis College in Colorado offers rapid rehousing for students in immediate need, partnering with local residents to give shelter to at-risk students.
  • Columbus State Community College offers short- and long-term housing placements for students, relying on community partnerships for funding.
  • Illinois institutions are required to provide students without housing accommodations on campus during academic breaks. Southern Illinois University extends the accommodations through the summer months, as well.

Rhonda Mouton, LaGuardia CARES student life manager, says community members can also get involved in providing solutions to student housing through donating money or hotel room rentals or opening their own homes.

The impact: All the students who have received housing through the partnership found long-term housing after leaving their Airbnb residence. Students also had higher GPAs and continued their education at a higher rate following the experience, Mouton says.

On a qualitative level, Mouton says she wishes she had taken photos of students before and after the experience, because “they look like two different people. They’re able to perform better … they become stronger and more empowered.”

Stable housing alleviates barriers to academic performance, including stress and anxiety, but it also allows students to develop healthier relationships and focus on financial wellness, Mouton explains.

Building forward: The largest barriers in the initiative have been costs, Mouton says. While providing housing to 20 students is great, it’s only around 6 percent of the unhoused population at LaGuardia.

LaGuardia doesn’t get a discount for the monthly rate on Airbnb, limiting students to the $1,700 budget for the month, which includes fees.

The New York City Council also enacted a new law in September 2023 restricting short-term rentals, requiring all hosts to register and putting a minimum stay requirement on guests. The law may push out Airbnbs for tourists, but it may also reduce market availability for LaGuardia’s students or raise prices for rooms, Adams says.

LaGuardia leaders are looking to create sustainable funding to keep the program running, as well as looking at other housing solutions. “We’re trying to remove homelessness as a barrier to students’ academic success,” Adams says. “We need to buy time to do that, and this is that bridge.”

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