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The New Orleans City Council adopted sweeping new regulations on Aug. 8 that tighten the rules for short-term rental (STR) operators in the city. The council’s 7-0 vote ranks among the most historic steps that City Hall has taken to protect local neighborhoods, many of which have been overrun by STRs. The new regulatory scheme takes effect Dec. 1. While far from perfect, it’s a vast improvement over the city’s previous set of STR rules — and much work remains.

In recent years, New Orleans’ popularity as a tourist destination and the proliferation of online rental platforms such as Airbnb sparked an explosion of STRs in historic neighborhoods. The previous council attempted, at the urging of then-Mayor Mitch Landrieu, to regulate and tax STR operators, but that effort fell woefully short.

In fact, the previous rules exacerbated the problem by allowing “whole home” rentals, which encouraged out-of-town speculators to buy up large swaths of properties, jack up home prices and drive out longtime residents. This pushed out the very people who create New Orleans’ culture, which is what attracts visitors to the city in the first place. Equally problematic: The city’s affordable housing crisis has gotten worse as more local homes became STRs.

The new regulations eliminate “whole-home” rentals and require all STR owners in residential neighborhoods to live on site and have homestead exemptions for STR properties. This should help reduce noise and other disturbances in residential neighborhoods; new enforcement provisions allow the city to permanently revoke STR permits for noise and other code violations. The new regs also ban STRs in the French Quarter — except for several blocks of Bourbon Street — and in the entire Garden District.

Elsewhere, the new regulations limit commercial-area STRs, attempt to address the city’s affordable housing crisis, and improve tax and fee collections. Starting Dec. 1, commercial STRs will be subject to a 25% cap. Until then, existing city law puts no cap on STRs in commercial zones (new laws cannot retroactively take away existing rights).

The council also raised the nightly fee on commercial STRs from $10 to $12 — all of which will go toward affordable housing. All STR taxes and fees will be collected and remitted by online platforms that facilitate STR rentals. That will make collections easier for the city. For a deeper dive into the new rules, a summary of the new ordinances is available HERE.

“I believe that this is just the beginning of a larger conversation about sustainable tourism,” said District C Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who led the fight for tighter STR regs. “Our city hosts 18 million visitors each year, but the effects of that are felt unevenly among residents. The economic hardships too many of our residents face show that we’re not doing enough to address those inequities. We are taking the first step today toward reaffirming what we want our city to be.”

We hope the new STR rules will fulfill the council’s stated goal of putting the interests of neighborhoods ahead of those of speculators — and generate significant funds for affordable housing — but a lot of work remains to be done.

This is a commentary from Gambit, produced independently from reporters at the paper.