New Orleans City Council votes March 23 on short-term rentals

On Thursday, March 23, the New Orleans City Council will vote on new rules for short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs, in residentially zoned parts of the city. Let your councilmembers know where you stand by calling or e-mailing them or speak at the public hearing, expected to start shortly after noon at City Hall.

The council agrees on the need to meet a court-imposed deadline set by a judge who ruled the city’s regulations unconstitutional last year. However, that may be where the unanimity stops. When reviewing recommendations from the City Planning Commission, they voted 4-3 to limit STRs to one per city square. That move enjoys strong support from neighborhood associations, preservationists, housing advocates and even The Gambit, but according to it remains a matter of debate within City Hall.

Density limits protect quality of life for nearby permanent residents and preserve the city’s supply of full-time rentals for residents. Unfortunately, some areas already have an excessive density of STRs, particularly in historic neighborhoods near tourist attractions, such as Tremé, Faubourg Marigny and the Lower Garden District. District C Councilmember Freddie King has suggested a “release valve” that would allow owners to petition the council for exceptions. Neighborhood activists oppose any exceptions to the limit on whole housing units, which account for 85 percent of STRs, favoring instead a criteria that gives the edge to hosts who rent rooms within their own homes.

The Preservation Resource Center supports the one-per-square density limit unless and until the city establishes a stronger track record of enforcement. At least 40 percent of STRs booked on Airbnb within the last six months lacked proper permits. City staff testified earlier this month that a lack of hearing officers has slowed the pace of enforcement and stymied their efforts to fine owners who violate standards for noise, overcrowding and occupant safety.

Nathan Lott is PRC’s Policy Research Director and Advocacy Coordinator.