The number of properties in New Orleans being offered to tourists as short-term rentals has grown at an explosive rate as the practice has spread out from the downriver neighborhoods where it formerly was most common, new data show.
Airbnb, the most prominent player in the local short-term rental market, is now offering about 4,000 properties in the city. About 72 percent of those are entire homes, the type of rentals that have become the major flashpoint as the City Council considers passing new regulations.
Controversy has grown between those who offer their properties for rent and residents who argue the practice has a corrosive effect on neighborhoods, something they say is exacerbated because 42 percent of those rentals are posted by people with multiple listings, meaning they are not simply trying to augment their income by renting out unneeded space but are operating full-fledged businesses.
The data come from InsideAirbnb.com, a website that tracks listings on the short-term rental platform in multiple cities and takes a critical view of its effects on the communities in which it operates. Airbnb itself does not provide raw data on its rentals in the New Orleans area.
The new data show that the number of Airbnb short-term rentals in the city grew by nearly 48 percent between June , when the site first started tracking Airbnb in New Orleans, and February, when 3,621 properties were offered, and the number continues to rise.
While the French Quarter and surrounding areas remain the locations with the most listings, an increasing number of properties in upriver neighborhoods also are being offered for rent.
The new data are likely to further fuel the debate over short-term rentals in the city. Both sides argue that the growth in rentals shows the need for the council to adopt new policies for a practice that now is illegal, though the rules are almost never enforced.
Critics of the rentals want a ban on owners renting out whole houses and apartments in residential areas or at least strict limits on their numbers, while those who offer homes or rooms to visitors want to be allowed to rent as many as they can as long as they pay taxes the same way hotels do.
“These (new) numbers are staggering, and they demonstrate that we’ve got to get a handle on the situation,” said Meg Lousteau, executive director of Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates, who asked InsideAirbnb.com to release its latest round of data.
The February data were collected during the final week before Mardi Gras, but the tourist influx during Carnival season appears not to have had much of an effect on the number of listings.
Murray Cox, who runs InsideAirbnb.com, said Tuesday that data from early April showed more than 4,030 properties listed on Airbnb, up 400 from February and a nearly 65 percent increase over last year’s numbers.
Airbnb rentals remain most common in the areas surrounding the French Quarter, which on its own had nearly 300 listings in February. Faubourg Marigny, the 7th Ward and Treme also now have at least 220 short-term rentals each. Mid-City remains a popular location, with 230 sites listed.
Short-term rentals also are becoming increasingly common in Broadmoor, the Irish Channel and other areas where they had been a rarity in the past.
Nearly three-quarters of the listings are for an entire home or apartment, rather than just a spare room. Critics say that’s the worst type of rental because it disrupts neighborhoods, reduces the housing supply and, in many cases, amounts to a full-time business, not simply a way for homeowners to make ends meet.
Many of those who own short-term rentals, however, argue that the spread of the practice is a sign that the City Council should create regulations that acknowledge their reality.
Eric Bay, a board member of the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity, which is made up of short-term rental owners, said strict regulations would just hurt compliance.
“More so now than ever, we urge the city to take a comprehensive look at (the issue), prevent some barriers to entry and really grasp it,” said Bay, who rents out the Uptown home where he lives part of the week while he is traveling. “Let’s address it. Let’s make it nonrestrictive and noncumbersome.”
The council is considering a proposal to require all short-term rentals to be licensed and to pay taxes. The chief point of dispute seems to be whether to allow whole-home rentals in residential neighborhoods, and if so, how many.
Lousteau said the city needs to require platforms that facilitate the rentals, such as Airbnb, to share their data with the city so officials can track and properly regulate the practice.
“We have to know where this industry is and how it’s operating to craft rules and have effective enforcement,” Lousteau said. “Enforcement will not be possible without data sharing; it simply cannot happen. This industry cannot be allowed to hide in the shadows.”
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.