Jefferson Parish is looking into whether it needs new laws to deal with the short-term rental phenomenon that has emerged with the popularity of websites such as Airbnb.
The Parish Council approved a resolution Wednesday asking the Planning Department and Planning Advisory Board to look at existing zoning and development codes and see whether additional standards for short-term rentals are necessary.
While New Orleans has been wrestling for years with the popular but controversial practice of property owners renting their homes to out-of-town visitors, Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng said she started getting phone calls from constituents late last year as she wrapped up her term representing Metairie-based District 5.
Now an at-large member representing the entire parish, Lee-Sheng said it’s time to see if any steps need to be taken.
“In some areas, like where we have recreational waterways, (allowing such rentals) may work,” she said. “They may want to do that in those neighborhoods.”
However, she said, “the complaints I was getting were from people who live in a stable neighborhood and they don’t know who’s coming and going next to them and they don’t like that. When people buy a house, part of it is they want to be in a stable residential neighborhood, which means they want to know who their neighbors are.”
A check of Airbnb’s website Wednesday showed only a smattering of offerings in Jefferson Parish, but Lee-Sheng said at one point there were about 25 listed as available in East Jefferson alone.
The New Orleans City Council has spent well over a year seeking to regulate short-term rentals, which have proven wildly popular with some property owners who welcome the extra income but unpopular with some of their neighbors, who say the constant churn of renters destroys the fabric of neighborhoods and disrupts real estate prices.
Lee-Sheng said Jefferson Parish, like other local governments, is in a position of having to play catch-up to new technologies and the so-called sharing economies they have created. She said it’s not unlike the effort she spearheaded with fellow Councilman Ben Zahn last year to craft an ordinance governing how ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft would operate alongside traditional taxi services.
“This is just an issue where the new economy and new technologies are out there and government is trying to catch up, similar to the ride-share services, with Uber,” she said.
That earlier effort, however, proved ill-fated after the ordinance failed to get the support of either ride-sharing market leader Uber or local cabbies, and the council rejected it. Uber moved into the market anyway, and the parish sued the initial handful of drivers for operating without the proper certification.
Jefferson cab drivers also filed suit against Uber earlier this week.
Wednesday’s resolution to commission the short-term rental study, which will be done in-house and could take about six months, was approved 6-0.
Staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report. Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.