2016 short-term rental protest signs

Over the last couple of years, short-term rentals have taken center stage as a topic of conversation for many residents. But, the industry itself has a long history in Southeast Louisiana. Generations before Apple was something more than a fruit, vacation rentals were an important accommodations option for millions of traveling families venturing to the region. And over two decades ago, HomeAway was founded to bring that vital industry online making it easier than ever for local homeowners to open their doors to traveling families and groups.

In the years that followed, short-term rentals grew into a preferred option in the travel ecosystem. According to Phocuswright, 32 percent of U.S. travelers reported staying in a private home in 2015, up from 8 percent in 2010. That growth, both here in New Orleans and across the nation, has community members talking. Some have voiced concerns about how short-term rentals could impact the character of their neighborhood and housing costs. For many others, short-term rentals have become a critical lifeline to help make ends meet or a way to bring blighted properties into commerce once again. For both sides, the primary concern has become how actions taken by the city could impact their lives and the city that they love.

We at HomeAway believe the path forward should be one that recognizes the viewpoints of both sides of the issue. As we’ve seen in diverse and forward-thinking cities such as Seattle, finding solutions that work for all comes through fact-based dialogue and by finding neutral ground.

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Over the past several months, HomeAway has met with hundreds of local homeowners and managers, housing advocates, city staff, small business leaders and tourism officials to engage and listen to all sides to explore what true policy compromise could look like for such an important industry. Out of that discourse has come our Whole-home, Whole Community blueprint, comprised of four policy pillars based on discussions with those many diverse voices. HomeAway supports policy options that help preserve neighborhood character, such as controlling for density and saturation, preventing nuisance, and helping to address affordable housing challenges by increasing the short-term rental fee to two percent of the total lodging rate. If the city continues to allow whole-home vacation rentals in New Orleans, that option alone could generate $20.6 million per year in fees for affordable housing based on data provided in the University of New Orleans report.

By choosing to reject ineffective policies such as a ban disguised as a simple homestead exemption requirement and finding neutral ground with solutions anchored in compromise that truly address community issues, we hope a path forward can be forged that allows whole-home vacation rentals to continue to benefit New Orleans.

Philip Minardi

director of policy communications, HomeAway

Washington, D.C.