Group urging more affordable housing in New Orleans comes out against some short-term rentals like Airbnb _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--A sign on Burgundy Street in the French Quarter advertises an apartment for rent in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Many long term residents in the French Quarter are worried that the neighborhood will soon be only rentals, both long term of 30 days or more and short term of a few days or weeks.

Opponents of legalizing short-term rentals in New Orleans have long argued that their proliferation has driven up housing costs and restricted the supply of affordable housing in the city.

But those arguments came mostly from neighborhood associations and individual residents, with citywide groups that lobby for affordable housing largely staying on the sidelines in the debate.

That changed Friday, when the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance came out against allowing the rental of entire homes in the city through sites like Airbnb.

The group said that if any short-term rentals are allowed, they should be subject to fees that would help pay for more affordable and subsidized housing. At the same time, it reiterated its call not to divert resources from code enforcement to police short-term rentals.

The statement from the organization, which is a key part of the HousingNOLA plan — a plan backed by City Hall to expand affordable housing — said the group “is seriously concerned about the potential for whole-home rentals to act as a factor in exacerbating New Orleans’ housing crisis. … Allowing traditional housing units to be converted to short-term rentals would decrease available housing stock and drive up housing prices.”

The Housing Alliance’s statement calls for stricter regulations than most neighborhood groups are now pushing for. While many of those groups primarily oppose allowing the rental of entire homes in residential areas, the alliance is also calling for a ban on short-term rentals of properties such as condominiums and apartments in mixed-use and commercial districts.

Proposed rules now being considered by the City Planning Commission would allow whole-home rentals if the operator gets a conditional-use permit from the city. The rules also would limit such rentals to between two and four houses per block, depending on the area of the city, with denser areas near the city’s core having higher limits. Sort-term rentals in commercial and mixed-use neighborhoods would be required to get a license but would not face density restrictions.

All short-term rentals would have to pay taxes the same as hotels.

The Housing Alliance’s statement said the city is already far behind on its announced goal of creating 3,360 housing units a year over 10 years to combat rising housing prices. In recent years, only about 2,200 addresses have been added each year.

Over the past year, for example, it fell short of that goal by more than 1,000 units, the group said.

“Although whole-home short-term rental units are not the largest or the only factor driving prices upward, they are still contributing to the overall challenge of rising prices and displacement by taking units off the market that could otherwise be dedicated to housing New Orleanians,” according to the alliance’s statement.

The statement says that websites such as Airbnb should be held responsible for allowing only properly registered short-term rental properties to use their sites, both to avoid “diverting precious resources from other housing challenges” and because other cities that have tried to regulate the industry have had dismal buy-in from operators in their communities.

The group also called for the city to impose an additional 2 percent surcharge on visitors using short-term rentals, with that money going to the Neighborhood Improvement Fund, a city trust fund aimed at promoting affordable housing. That would come on top of the hotel taxes that short-term rentals would be required to pay.

Previously, both the Housing Alliance and the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center told city officials that their main concern was ensuring that the city did not take money away from other priorities, such as code enforcement and creating affordable housing, to crack down on short-term rentals.

It was not immediately clear what led to the Housing Alliance’s new position.

The alliance’s statement came a few days after a member of the City Planning Commission questioned whether short-term rentals have much of an impact on the supply of affordable housing.

That came during a commission hearing Tuesday at which a representative of the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative argued against whole-home rentals and said tenants’ rights need to be strengthened in the city to prevent renters from being evicted to make room for more profitable short-term rentals. However, the Housing Alliance and other groups did not send representatives to that meeting, leading Planning Commissioner Royce Duplessis to suggest they did not have strong feelings on the issue.

At the request of the Landrieu administration, the commission took no action at Tuesday’s hearing and deferred a vote on the proposed rules until early August.

Editor’s note: This story was altered on June 21, 2016 to clarify that in recent years the city has added about 2,200 new residential addresses a year.