Image: map of current, active STR licenses in Orleans Parish, image courtesy of nola.gov
The New Orleans City Planning Commission reconvened on Friday, Jan. 27, to continue debating the city’s options to reign in the conversion of homes to short-term rentals (STRs). Earlier in the week, the commission’s regular meeting was cut short by severe weather. In the interim, the planning commission staff modified its recommendations to include a new constraint: requiring property owners be “natural persons” of 18 or older (not LLCs or other corporations) and limiting each property owner to a single short-term rental property.
Commissioners and city staff have grappled with how to hold investors at bay since the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the city’s homestead exemption requirement for residential short-term rental owners was unconstitutional.
The City Planning Commission staff’s recommendations also included collapsing the three categories of residential STRs into a single non-residential permit type, limiting these to three bedrooms and six guests, and requiring an operator reside on the lot.
The staff recommendation of a one-per-blockface requirement (two per block) was met with jeers by STR owners and neighborhood activists alike — albeit for different reasons. Nevertheless, it remained a centerpiece of the staff’s recommendations as the best way to limit excessive STR proliferation in the neighborhoods most affected; when more permits are sought, a lottery would determine which owner can operate on the blockface.
The commissioners discussed creating an appeals process that would allow established good operators a chance to bypass the one-per-blockface limit and also discussed the need for improved enforcement. Currently there are more unlicensed listings on AirBnB in New Orleans than legal STRs. The city has recently staffed up its enforcement agency in an effort to curtail unlicensed and irresponsible operators.
After more than an hour, commissioner Robert Steeg moved for approval of the package with the added provision that an appeals process be developed. It passed unanimously. Next, the New Orleans City Council must review the proposal and may alter it before approving or denying new regulations. A judge has ordered the city to revoke its unconstitutional regulations by March 31. A temporary moratorium on new STR permits in residential zoning remains in place until new regulations can be finalized.
Nathan Lott is PRC’s Policy Research Director and Advocacy Coordinator.