Toronto, Canada, journalism student Corne Van Hoepen, 24, was hoping to visit his home in Lower Mainland, British Columbia, Canada, alongside a friend who happened to be black.
To save themselves some money, they decided to rent a room using Airbnb.
They booked a stay at a "High End Apartment at the Heart of Richmond Centre" and paid for two nights there.
But while finalizing the booking, however, Van Hoepen's Airbnb host informed him that black people were not welcome in the "High End Apartment" building.
First, an Airbnb host in Richmond cancelled a stay for two men in her suite, apparently because one of them is blac… https://t.co/NJwInlT2fw— Jon Woodward (@Jon Woodward) 1533948454.0
The host, whose Airbnb account name was Grace, asked Van Hoepen a shocking question while he was trying to finalize their stay. Grace asked via Airbnb messenger:
"Is he black?"
Screenshot of Airbnb conversation shows host asking about guest's race.CORNE VAN HOEPEN
Van Hoepen, who is white, was shocked, saying:
"I've never experienced this before, myself, because I'm Caucasian... my first instinct was to be like 'what does race really matter? We're just trying to book a room."
As such, he decided he needed to consult his friend and traveling companion.
"I haven't had many experiences with racism. At that moment, I reached out to my friend to ask what I should do. He said 'I'm proud to be black and I own it, so just say that I'm a black person.' So I did that."
@Airbnb I know there is nothing u can do to screen stupidity- but hoping “Grace” is turfed - 2018 right?… https://t.co/r0PqpGKdiE— Robert Ashton (@Robert Ashton) 1534022639.0
Grace then contacted Van Hoepen by phone and informed him:
"There's no blacks allowed in the building, please cancel your reservation."
@HuffPostCanada Airbnb should remove owner from service. He ruins their reputation.— Don Gloade (@Don Gloade) 1534011079.0
Grace later tried to backtrack her claim.
She claimed her apartment doesn't allow Airbnb rentals at all and the presence of a black person entering the building would tip off management:
"I will definitely get fine, as there is no black people in this building. I am so sorry, could you please cancel the booking and look for another place."
@HuffPostCanada Ridiculous. You and your friend are MORE than welcome here! We are in Ottawa though. Just saying.— Alexi Merkis (@Alexi Merkis) 1533945643.0
That story didn't quite hold muster when Van Hoepen called the building directly. The building manager said short-term rentals were allowed and that "this is 2018 and there are no such rules" prohibiting black individuals.
A British Columbia MLA, Ravi Kahlon, took exception to the incident as well, posting about it on Twitter.
This is a frustrating and serious allegation against Airbnb. Our new Human Rights Commission will work to address… https://t.co/MtXjb4DO06— Ravi kahlon (@Ravi kahlon) 1534003400.0
"We removed this [host] from our community and will ensure the guests have our full support and assistance in finding a place to stay."
Van Hoepen was still awaiting the refund of his reservation as of the writing of this article.
Another example of how far we have come. #racism #Airbnb #discrimination https://t.co/PP4yrPHeCl— Tracy Wong (@Tracy Wong) 1534006017.0
He also noted all Airbnb hosts must agree to this clause in their user agreement:
"I agree to treat everyone in the Airbnb community — regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age — with respect, and without judgment or bias."
Hopefully swift action such as this will discourage any future instances of racism within Airbnb.