After hours of impassioned public comments from both owners of short-term rentals (STRs) and residents whose neighborhoods have been impacted by them, the New Orleans City Council today moved forward with its effort to limit the operation of short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods.
The council unanimously approved a motion capping all residential STRs, like those listed on Airbnb and Homeaway, to properties with homestead exemptions. Councilmembers also moved to uphold bans on STRs in the Garden District and most of the French Quarter.
Residents who supported the limits on STRs — and some who supported banning them from neighborhoods altogether — complained of increased housing costs, gentrification and being kept awake late at night by the sound of noisy renters throwing beer bottles into the streets.
Those in opposition to the restrictions — including STR owners and those working in the hospitality industry — said they rely on revenue from STRs to make a living and that they worried the regulations would burden responsible owners.
For residents, activists and city officials, this debate is nothing new. The council has been in the process of discussing the proposed limits for the last year, a conversation that included debate over the role STRs play in affordable housing and gentrification.
And the process isn’t over yet. The council will have a final vote on the measures in a few months which will involve another round of public comment. But the votes today signal that the council will likely pass the limits and that they’ll become law.
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Felipe Fischer, who recently moved to the city, said he spends the weekends cleaning up the trash left in his neighborhood streets by short-term renters and knocking on doors asking their doors asking them to keep noise levels down. “I did not buy my house to be the sheriff of the neighborhood,” he said.
Other in favor of the restrictions — some touting signs reading “I love my neighbors and I want to keep them” — said the proliferation of STRs was changing the “character of their neighborhoods.”
A resident of Eliza Street echoed this sentiment, “I really love my neighborhood and I really love my neighbors. Tourists can’t bring out your trash cans on trash day when you’ve forgotten. They can’t clean up the catch basins. They won’t give you a ride to work when you’re having car trouble…”
“We’re lucky to live in a city of neighborhoods, and it’s the actual people who make up those neighborhoods,” she added.
The council voted unanimously to approve a ban on STRs in the Garden District. But a proposal to add an exception to an STR ban in the French Quarter for the Vieux Carre Entertainment 1 district (VCE-1) sparked disagreement among councilmembers, who ultimately voted down the exceptions 4-3.
Those in favor of carving exceptions to allow STRs in the VCE-1 part of the French Quarter, argued that it differs from other residential areas because it is classified as an entertainment district, noting that it contains the House of Blues.
“The entire French Quarter can’t be regarded as a single-residential neighborhood,” said Suzette Toledano, who lives above the concert venue.
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They also argued that the district’s residents supported the measure, and that objections mainly came from people living in the French Quarter but outside the district.
Still, the council ultimately voted to reject that exception with Councilmember Kristen Gisleson Palmer leading the opposition to it. Palmer said the only reason the district was labeled an entertainment district was so that the House of Blues could come there, listing ways the area was legally different from Bourbon Street where STRs are allowed on several blocks.
The council also approved a motion that would limit large residential STRs to six bedrooms and 12 guests. That’s down significantly from the nine bedrooms and 18 guests the council had previously considered.
The conversation about STRs in the city is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. While the city council was meeting in New Orleans, the state Senate Local and Municipal Affairs Committee in Baton Rouge, approved a bill that would have New Orleans voters decide in October if they wanted to raise a tax on STRs by up to 6.75 percent.
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