Allowing owners of homes in residential neighborhoods to rent their entire properties year-round to short-term visitors is "off the table" for Mayor Mitch Landrieu in the middle of ongoing discussions of how the city should craft overall regulations for such rentals.
Discussions are taking place among the administration, City Council members and representatives of both sides of the debate, with hopes of reaching a deal by Thursday's council meeting.
But Landrieu for the first time said Monday in no uncertain terms that he would not support the most controversial type of rentals, of whole homes in residential areas. Thousands of such rentals are listed on websites such as Airbnb and HomeAway.
"That's going to be off the table. That's not going to happen," Landrieu said.
At the same time, Landrieu and Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni — who has served as the administration's point man on the issue — said workable regulations will have to allow for other types of short-term rentals. Those likely would include renting rooms and half-doubles, renting full condos or apartments in commercial and mixed-use complexes, and time-limited rentals of full houses for up to 30 days a year.
Allowing those types of rentals — and collecting taxes on them under a law passed by the Legislature this year — will provide the funding needed to enforce the new rules, Landrieu said.
"You can't stop it from getting here," he said, referring to the mushrooming popularity of short-term rentals nationwide. "You have to appropriately regulate it, and you have to do it in a way that is clear and understandable and that generates enough money to enforce" the rules.
Several council members have expressed skepticism about allowing rentals of whole homes in residential areas.
Monday's discussion was the first time the Landrieu administration has taken a firm position on short-term rentals. Administration officials have previously avoided commenting on specific elements of the proposed regulations.
However, the administration had seemed to many observers to be at least leaning toward allowing whole-home rentals, which are believed to make up about three-quarters of the roughly 4,300 units on the market in the city.
The elimination of residential whole-home rentals would square with recommendations the City Planning Commission has made twice during the long process of creating new rules for the industry.
Berni said the administration will not support total bans on short-term rentals for specific areas of the city. Neighborhood groups in the French Quarter and Lower Garden District have called for whole-home rentals to be completely banned in their areas.
However, there can be discussions about limits on the number of full-time short-term rentals that would be allowed in a specific area, Berni said.
Landrieu said efforts to broker a deal have run into opposition from both sides of the debate. He compared the effort to the failed attempt a few years ago to broker a deal to change the city's noise ordinance.
Some opponents have sought full bans, something Landrieu said would be unworkable because the city doesn't have the money to enforce such prohibitions.
"They will create an environment that is not enforceable, that is identical to what we have now, that will create the proliferation we have now," he said.
On the other side, some proponents have pushed back against any regulations, he said.
Any plan will need buy-in from the websites offering short-term rentals. That could prove to be a major stumbling block because all the major sites have insisted that the city must allow whole-home rentals.
Those companies will need to share data with the city that could be used for enforcement and for collecting taxes, Berni said.
"The reason (regulation) hasn't worked in other places is because there hasn't been data" on who is offering their properties to visitors, he said.