The New Orleans City Council could vote this week to temporarily halt the issuance of new licenses for short-term rentals of entire homes and bar the renewal of those licenses in residential areas until it decides whether to overhaul the long-term rules that legalized such rentals last year.
Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who returned to the council this month after a four-year absence, has drafted a measure to “push pause” on some short-term rental licenses and plans to put it to a council vote Thursday.
The move would amount to an aggressive curtailment of the type of short-term rentals that have drawn the most ire from neighborhood groups and residents, even before the council decides what to do in the long term about rentals through platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway.
More than a fifth of the whole-home rentals in residential neighborhoods have licenses that expire in coming months.
Palmer's measure would require those properties to shut down until final regulations are passed; even then, they could find they would no longer be allowed.
Palmer's Algiers-based district also includes Faubourg Marigny and much of Treme, neighborhoods that have seen concentrations of short-term rentals that have forced out many long-term residents, critics say.
Another measure drafted by Palmer would call on the City Planning Commission to add new elements to a study it is now conducting on short-term rental regulations, including the experience of cities that have stricter policies than New Orleans.
That measure, if passed, would restart the clock on the study, which was supposed to be wrapped up this summer, and give planners another four months to make recommendations.
“We (new council members) all ran on this (in our campaigns) because we saw how short-term rentals were affecting our neighborhoods. Not all of them, but some,” Palmer said Monday.
It’s not clear how the measures will fare Thursday, but they seem likely to pass. Four other members are listed as co-sponsors of the motions, giving them a majority on the seven-member council.
“We understand that there are competing interests here,” said Councilman Joe Giarrusso, one of the co-sponsors. “We’re trying to balance something here that we know is not going away with making sure that quality of life for people who live here is at its highest.”
In an emailed statement, Airbnb spokeswoman Molly Weedn said the council should not take any new action until the planners' current study is completed.
"We are reviewing the proposal but would hope the city would wait to consider any changes to the rules — which the council spent more than two years developing and which have been in place for just over a year — until a study looking at short-term rentals is expected to come out in early July," Weedn said.
Renting out a home for less than 30 days has long been illegal in New Orleans, but the regulation was rarely enforced. Faced with the fact that thousands of properties were listed for rental, the council voted to legalize the practice in late 2016, with the rules going into effect last spring.
The regulations created three types of short-term rental licenses: Accessory rentals allow people with a homestead exemption to rent a room or a half-double on the property where they live. Temporary rentals allow for an entire home to be rented out for 90 days a year. Commercial rentals allow for the unlimited rental of whole apartments or homes that are not in residential zones.
Palmer’s proposal would immediately halt the issuance of temporary licenses, even those that have already been applied for, in the historic districts where short-term rentals are most highly concentrated.
They include Marigny and Bywater, the one stretch of Bourbon Street where short-term rentals are permitted in the French Quarter, and other areas including the Central Business District, Lower Garden District and Central City.
There are more than 4,300 active short-term rental licenses in the city; more than 2,200 of those are temporary licenses for entire homes. About 900 of those temporary licenses are set to expire during the extra four months the council would give the Planning Commission to conduct its study.
Palmer noted that when the ordinance was originally passed, several council members said they planned to revisit the regulations after a year.
The possibility that the rules would change or certain properties would no longer be allowed to host short-term rentals should have been taken into account by anyone getting into the business, she said.
“That is on them, not on the city of New Orleans,” Palmer said.
Palmer's proposal also would stop new commercial licenses, though owners that already hold them would be able to renew them when they expire. Commercial licenses are particularly common in the CBD and other areas where in some cases companies have filled condo buildings with large numbers of short-term rentals.
Accessory rental licenses would not be affected by the proposed new regulations.
The focus on temporary rentals reflects the complaints of those who argue that short-term rentals cut into the supply of housing and disrupt the fabric of the city’s neighborhoods.
Many of those activists have called for the city to impose new rules that would allow short-term rentals only in properties that have a homestead exemption, meaning they are the owner's legal, full-time residence.
Palmer said those concerns played a role in how her measure was crafted.
She said properties where the host actually lives — and may be renting a portion of their home to tourists simply to help cover bills and bring in extra money — have been less of a problem than the growth of units where no one lives and that are essentially full-time businesses.
“Which one takes precedence? A business or someone who has to make a decision about whether they can stay in their neighborhood?” Palmer asked.