For nowhere near the first time and definitely not the last, the New Orleans City Council is meeting on Thursday to consider the future shape and scope of the city’s short-term rental market. This time, the agenda calls for council members to once again hear public testimony, then preliminarily approve a set of proposals and ask that they be drafted into a formal ordinance, to come up again for another vote — with possible amendments — later.
Some of the specifics remain fluid, but the overall aim of the measure is to place stricter limits on rentals via sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway than the previous council had enacted. Some current members had made restricting STRs a key campaign plank, including point person Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who represents some of the downtown neighborhoods most affected by the practice’s explosive growth.
If it feels as if the story has been dragging on forever, though, there’s a possible new twist, courtesy of Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the tourism officials with whom she recently struck a deal to provide more money for city infrastructure.
One source of revenue the sides agreed upon was a higher tax on short-term rentals, which would generate about $10.5 million annually. But fewer units would mean fewer tax dollars. Officials with Airbnb and HomeAway, which are known for aggressive efforts to stave off regulations, have said that the total could drop by up to $6 million if the current proposal is enacted.
What this means for the debate isn’t yet clear. Cantrell, who served on the council that approved the initial regulations, has made a point of staying out of things since she moved into the mayor’s office.
Stay tuned, though. The tourism deal was a centerpiece of Cantrell’s first year in office. And it gives her a new reason to engage in this long-running debate.