Final Council Vote on Short Term Rentals Not Good For Neighborhoods

Yesterday’s vote at the City Council did not bode well for the Garden District or any neighborhood in the City except for most of the French Quarter. While we have always supported the institution of regulations and enforcement, the proliferation of STRs that is being allowed, we believe, is not good for the city, especially tourist destination neighborhoods such as ours.

The Association had several members in attendance, some who spoke passionately to help take the pressure off of our area. But those pleas fell on deaf ears of Councilmembers. Many amendments we suggested were spearheaded by council member Brossett but shot down by a majority of the Council. Some of our suggestions such as ‘no vesting of rights’ (very important), stayed in the approved package along with other tweaks to the regulatory rules. In the end, only CMs Brossett and Guidry voted against the package to allow short term rentals to exists in most parts of the city citing
their desire to further protect neighborhoods.

There is much to read on this matter in today’s newspapers and in the City Council notes below. We will release more information later, but the gist of the outcome can be seen in these other stories. Please be assured that we will continue to work on this issue as it progresses and affects the neighborhood. Changes to this ordinance can be made by the City Council.

Side note: As expected, before the sun set last night, an advertisement popped up on VRBO offering a large house with room enough “for 10, or 12 with air mattresses” in the middle of our neighborhood. This not being done by a neighbor but a corporation. We will, no doubt, see more of this, changing our residential character through more commercial encroachment.

To read more on specific Council member remarks; please see a copy of the City Council newsletter below:

Council Votes on Proposed Requirements and Penalties Relative to Short-Term Rentals

The Council voted to approve a legislative package to establish permit and license requirements, as well as applicable standards for short-term rentals and penalties and fees relative thereto. The ordinances set regulations on short-term rental platforms (STR’s), such as Airbnb, and put the City Council out front as leaders on this issue nationally.

The package of ordinances passed today wrap up a multi-year process of deliberations, which officially began in the summer of 2015. The package of ordinances include:

  • Establishes permit, license, registry and data sharing requirements for STRs.
  • Amends the zoning code, codifying land use regulations into the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.
  • Requires that $1.00 nightly occupancy surcharge be collected into the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund (NHIF), which is a fund designated to promote fair housing citywide.
  • Amends the City code to align with state law allowing for the assessment of hotel and motel taxes on STRs.
  • Establishes an agreement with the short-term rental industry leader, Airbnb, to facilitate data sharing, remit hotel sales and use tax as well as hotel occupancy privilege taxes.

The Council allowed for public comment before the vote on all amendments individually, and the package itself. The public comment expressed both concern and gratitude toward the Council for its leadership on the controversial issue.

“Going forward, the Council will continue to listen to members of the community and re-evaluate the rules and regulations regarding short-term rentals to find what works best for us,” said District “E” Councilmember Gray said. “Those adjustments will be made as soon as we can get a clear picture and consensus in order to benefit the citizens of New Orleans. The whole city should be treated the same, and no one specific neighborhood should get different benefits than another neighborhood. But at the end of the day, we’re looking at a compromise, which I think, is a better deal than anyone else in the country has right now. I think it’s the best deal that we can get today, under the circumstance.”

“I’d like to thank the members of the Council and those at Airbnb who’ve been willing to work with us on this issue,” said District “A” Councilmember Guidry. “This is a quickly changing industry, and I think Airbnb is coming to understand that a better business model is one that works with regulators and hopefully we’ll see more of that. With our amendments being voted down, I cannot vote for the land-use regulations because I feel like we’re giving up too much of our neighborhood protections to short-term rentals. My primary concern is now and has always been, the quality of life in our residential neighborhoods. Having short-term rentals up to 90 days a year with no homestead exemption requirement is unacceptable to me.”

“Last year there was a proliferation of short-term rentals in The City of New Orleans, and the year before that,” said Councilmember-At-Large Williams. “To vote no against this agreement, not in large part, but completely allows further proliferation in this city. I would charge both sides to understand that whoever votes yes for this, is not throwing a thumbs up to short-term rentals; we are creating an effective enforcement mechanism that not another city in this world has been able to put together yet. There will be a time and place in the future to add to this package, but today is not the day to do that. Today is the day to create an enforcement mechanism that is real.”

As one member of the Council who voted against the package, District “D” Councilmember Jared Brossett said, “Today, I proposed reasonable provisions regarding short-term rental zoning and enforcement that are needed to protect our residents, businesses, and neighborhoods. As I have said before,” he continued, “I have many concerns regarding short-term rentals and can only support legalizing this practice if the enabling legislation requires residential short-term rental properties to be occupied by owners with a homestead exemption, limits the number of short-term rental permits allowed per year, regulates commercial short-term rentals the same as similar businesses, and includes an effective regulatory framework with a proven enforcement mechanism in place to mitigate the negative impact of short-term rentals. The zoning ordinance that passed today did not include any of these potentially mitigating provisions and was not an ordinance I could support.”

“If this legislation is not passed, we’ll continue to see a proliferation of short-term rentals in New Orleans,” said District “C” Councilmember Ramsey. “I’d like to see this as an opportunity to preserve our neighborhoods and culture. I continue to work vigorously for the enforcement of short term rentals and particularly residents in the French Quarter. This issue is worldwide, and we’ll continue to look at what other cities are doing while remaining sensitive to concerns of those on both side of the issue. I want to express my gratitude to the members of the community here today for their participation in this discussion.”