As a state senator, I represent many neighborhoods throughout the New Orleans area, including Gentilly, New Orleans East, the Marigny, Bywater and French Quarter. These are vibrant, close-knit communities where individuals identify themselves by where they live just as easily as where they went to high school.
I share the concerns of these neighborhoods regarding the rise of short term rentals (STRs) and the effect they have the fabric of our neighborhoods.
We, as a city, have always found strength in the diversity of our citizens.
Shorting our dwindling housing stock to drive up rents, property values and limit the ability of the elderly and working poor to stay in their homes or afford rent simply to attract legions of tourists seems counterintuitive.
In the state Legislature this past session, we attempted to pass minor safety guidelines for STRs, requiring fire extinguishers and clearly marked accessible exits, in response to local safety concerns.
AirBNB and VRBO turned out in force to defeat this bill. If STRs are turning a profit breaking the law and defeating all attempts to promote public safety, why should we seek to reward bad behavior by passing ordinances written by these profiteers?
The City Planning Commission (CPC) voted to ban Whole Home STRs for a reason. They did this to prevent the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods, the obliteration of our tax base, and the undermining of local businesses that follow the rules.
The compromise being proposed by STR proponents is no compromise at all. This new language seeks to expand the Temporary STR permit to 120 days a year (instead of 30) and omits the Homestead Exemption requirement. It’s a disingenuous effort by STR supporters to circumvent the City Planning Commission and the public process. Essentially, it allows Whole Home STRs with less regulation.
To be clear, the ordinance without this new, so called compromise language accomplishes what many individuals sought, the ability to rent part of your home to pay your mortgage. The omission of the Homestead Exemption requirement allows our housing market to be overrun by out of state investors snatching up housing stock.
Consider this: AirBNB began in San Francisco years ago as new, wondrous, disruptive industry that was supposed to add to that city’s diversity and innovation. AirBNB’s has run roughshod over all rules, laws and efforts to protect San Francisco residents. Housing stock is short, rents are high, and it is now a city overrun with tourists rather than residents. San Francisco has battled, repeatedly, to put the genie back in the bottle and failed. Even now, AirBNB sues to block, or ignores, any attempt to make them accountable for their actions.
For once, as a city and state, let’s not ignore the history or facts. We in New Orleans should learn from San Francisco’s mistakes. Giving STRs the keys to our city, and our neighborhoods, will lead to the rest of us being evicted.