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Spanish Town neighborhood Friday Feb. 15, 2019, Baton Rouge, La.

An innovation that has upended the travel market, short-term rentals facilitated by services like Airbnb, is now having an impact in Baton Rouge.

In neighborhoods across the capital city, concern is growing that there will be too many STR houses, to the potential detriment of other residents.

It’s been a challenge in New Orleans, not only because of tourism demand but because of fears of gentrification in older neighborhoods like Bywater. The good news is that Baton Rouge can learn from the experience in New Orleans and other cities around the country.

The danger of overuse of STRs is most salient in historic neighborhoods like Spanish Town and Beauregard Town near downtown. Metro Council member Tara Wicker, whose district includes downtown, is taking the lead — with consultation with the Planning Commission and with the rental owners and services like Airbnb — to draft an ordinance to regulate the practice.

We welcome this effort. For many residents with extra bedrooms, income from short-term rentals is welcome; the owners are present to make sure that renters behave. An outright ban, as in the vulnerable French Quarter in New Orleans, probably isn’t a good idea.

Still, in Spanish Town and Beauregard Town, Baton Rouge’s historic neighborhoods are smaller than in the Crescent City. That means their character can be sharply affected by a smaller number, but higher percentage, of short-term rentals, particularly the “whole-house” rentals that are inevitably less-supervised.

A compromise that protects neighborhoods, collects the same taxes as people in hotels pay, and makes STRs available for the tourist market in Baton Rouge — and there is one, albeit smaller than in New Orleans — should be possible.

However, as Wicker noted during a presentation on the issue to the Press Club of Baton Rouge, enforcement of a new ordinance is vital. Unfortunately, city-parish government hasn’t done as well as on code enforcement as anybody in these discussions would like.

A Baton Rouge civic leader, John Noland, has worked on housing issues in poorer neighborhoods in the city for decades. His comment was that a large percentage of properties are so obviously neglected that they won’t pass a “windshield inspection.”

You can drive by a lot of rental properties that have lapsed into disrepair, impacting the health and safety of residents. Whether or not short-term rentals generate much revenues directly for the city, local government has to improve enforcement to make even the best STR ordinance work.