Can lightning strike twice for Airbnb?

At the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, the then year-old startup got a big break when its online home rental service grabbed headlines for offering a solution to a local hotel shortage. But it's not clear yet whether Airbnb, now worth upwards of $1 billion, will get the same bounce at this year's DNC in Charlotte.

“We won't have a good sense of the 2012 DNC's business impact (or how it compares with the 2008 DNC) until after the event is over," said Airbnb spokeswoman Maggie Carr in an email to The Huffington Post. Carr added that the site has seen an increase in bookings, but offered no numbers.

In 2008, when Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky came across an article that asked how Denver -- which had around 28,000 hotel rooms at the time -- expected to accommodate 80,000 DNC convention-goers, a lightbulb went off.

“Obama supporters can host other Obama supporters from all over the world,” Chesky recalled thinking in an interview with the tech website Vator News. “All we did was become part of the story.”

Airbnb, which lets users rent out part or all of their homes, blasted bloggers in Denver with company information, sold "Obama O's" cereal around town and ultimately generated news coverage for offering an innovative solution to the city's lodging crisis. Four years later, the company has surpassed 10 million bookings in 26,000 cities around the world.

Part of that success, Chesky has said, is a result of the company’s ability to find “high-profile events” and market itself as an alternative housing option for visitors.

Ahead of the London Olympics in August, the company said it expected a three-fold increase in London summer rentals, as attendees bypassed crowded and costly hotels for private homes. Airbnb has seen similar surges during the popular technology conference South By Southwest in Austin, Texas.

“While we didn’t plan any specific events or activities around this year’s DNC, our hosts in Charlotte are excited to open up their homes to visitors coming for this year’s convention, especially given our history with the DNC in 2008,” Carr said.

One Airbnb listing for a private room in a single-family Charlotte home boasts a 20-minute walk to uptown and goes for $70 a night.

Airbnb rentals can sometimes pose problems for hosts and renters. Reports have surfaced of bedbug-ridden rooms and users who have trashed rental homes during their stay. To address vandalism concerns, Airbnb last year began covering as much as $1 million in renter damage. As for the bedbugs, it’s not clear that Charlotte’s hotels are any safer.

It also hasn't hurt business that Chesky has pitched Airbnb as a partial solution to America's housing crisis, a focus of the presidential campaign. Last month, Fortune magazine tracked down homeowners who said they used Airbnb rental proceeds to pay down delinquent mortgages.

Airbnb isn't the only startup generating buzz at this year's DNC. Three young companies teamed up to throw a convention party in Charlotte Monday evening that featured the hip-hop band The Roots. Meanwhile, Packard Place, a nearby startup incubator, hosted talks on innovation.

Correction: A previous version of this report misstated the amount that Airbnb covers for renter damage. The company covers as much as $1 million in renter damage, not $50,000.

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    <strong>Building permits/total housing units:</strong> 0.15% <strong>Decline in building permits 2005-2011:</strong> -60.29% (11th smallest) <strong>Building permits 2011 YTD:</strong> 8,136 <strong>Total housing units:</strong> 5,567,315 At the beginning of 2011, a number of new, restrictive building codes went into effect in Pennsylvania. This caused a rush among builders to secure permits, with housing permits increasing a massive 117.8% between November and December 2010, according to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. The state's housing market has not been doing well since. Permits issued from January to June 2011 fell 16% compared to the same six-month period one year earlier. The national average for permits issued in the first six months of 2011 compared to the first six months of 2011 is a decrease of 6%. Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">24/7 Wall St</a>.

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    <strong>Building permits/total housing units:</strong> 0.14% <strong>Decline in building permits 2005-2011:</strong> <strong>Building permits 2011 YTD:</strong> -77.09% (11th largest) <strong>Total housing units:</strong> 721,830 Maine has seen one of the largest decreases in building permits in the past six years. This is unsurprising as home sales in general declined substantially. Home sales for June 2011 decreased 21.39% from June 2010, according to the Maine Association of Realtors. The state's median sales price also decreased 1.37% over this same period. According to numbers from the Census Bureau, Maine has the highest vacancy rate in the country, reaching 22.8% in 2010. However, this number also includes empty vacation houses. Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">24/7 Wall St</a>.

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    <strong>Building permits/total housing units:</strong> 0.14% <strong>Decline in building permits 2005-2011:</strong> -61.85% (12th smallest) <strong>Building permits 2011 YTD:</strong> 11,033 <strong>Total housing units:</strong> 8,108,103 New York State's housing market is among the largest in the country. As a result, the number of permits is minuscule when compared to the state's total housing units. Although new home sales decreased in the first half of 2011 from 2010, the number of permits actually increased slightly during that period, from 10,189 in 2010. This is significantly lower than 2005's 28,921 permits. Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">24/7 Wall St</a>.

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    <strong>Building permits/total housing units:</strong> 0.12% <strong>Decline in building permits 2005-2011:</strong> 69.55% (24th smallest) <strong>Building permits 2011 YTD:</strong> 3,402 <strong>Total housing units:</strong> 2,808,254 Despite having a healthy economy compared to much of the country, Massachusetts' housing market is beginning to face serious troubles. In June 2011, sales of single-family homes in the state decreased 23.5% from the year before, reaching the lowest level since 1991, according to the Warren Group, a New England real estate research firm. With so few home sales, it follows that not many new homes are being built. Year-to-date, building permits for 2011 are about one quarter of what they were in 2005. Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">24/7 Wall St</a>.

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    <strong>Building permits/total housing units:</strong> 0.12% <strong>Decline in building permits 2005-2011:</strong> -76.61% (12th largest) <strong>Building permits 2011 YTD:</strong> 6,184 <strong>Total housing units:</strong> 5,127,508 Ohio has suffered, and continues to suffer, greatly from the housing crisis. Over 8,000 homes were foreclosed in July 2011, the ninth-largest amount in the country, according to real estate company RealtyTrac. With such a high foreclosure rate, currently at one in every 608 housing units, housing is already too inexpensive for people to want to build. Ohio has therefore had one of the greatest decreases in building permits in the country over the past six years. Median existing home sales are also down in many areas of the state, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. In Toledo, prices are down 17% from one year ago, the third largest rate in the country. Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">24/7 Wall St</a>.

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    <strong>Building permits/total housing units:</strong> 0.09 <strong>Decline in building permits 2005-2011:</strong> -82.19% (7th largest) <strong>Building permits 2011 YTD:</strong> 4,250 <strong>Total housing units:</strong> 4,532,233 Michigan is one of the states that has suffered the most from the recession. The state's unemployment rate peaked around 15% in 2010. It is now at 10.5%, which is still significantly higher than the national average of 9.2%. The state has a vacancy rate of just under 15%, which is one of the highest in the country. New building permits have also decreased by over 80% since 2005, also one of the highest rates in the country. The state may now be more focused on tearing down old buildings than building new ones. Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com" target="_hplink">24/7 Wall St</a>.

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