Among the New Orleans City Council's 2015 agenda items will be how to handle "illegal" short-term rentals — aka the big crop of AirBnBs available throughout the city. At its Dec. 17 Community Development Committee meeting, council members heard from proponents and opponents of short-term rentals and pledged that before they draft new legislation, they'll look to enforce what already is on the books.
"We have not done a great job of enforcement in the city," said District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. "We immediately have to look at how to enforce laws on the books ... and be realistic as to what is happening in neighborhoods, and make some decision as to how we regulate."
The Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity (ANP) — an organization that "supports visitor housing choice" and defends short-term rentals — says more than 100,000 visitors to New Orleans this year have used short-term rentals and stay an average of five nights. According to ANP, 18 percent of guests are from overseas, and 50 percent of guests make more than $70,000 a year. ANP adds that more than 80 percent of those who rent out their residences are homeowners using the property as their primary residence or as a pied-a-terre. ANP also says those rentals give visitors an "opportunity to experience other neighborhoods" outside the hotel-dense French Quarter.
Brian Furness, who runs a French Quarter bed and breakfast, said, "It's about the money, it's not about sharing, it's not about restoring property." Bonnie Rabe, president of the Professional Innkeepers Association of New Orleans (PIANO), said, "The same reasons people choose AirBnBs are the same reasons people choose bed and breakfasts. ... They're opening doors wherever they want to and providing the same service."
Current city ordinances prohibit renting properties for fewer than 60 days in the Vieux Carre and 30 days in other parts of New Orleans. French Quarter groups estimate the city fails to collect more than $1 million a year in permit fees and tax revenue from unlicensed rentals. Before moving onto the next agenda item, Cantrell said the council has "made a commitment that we will focus on this matter," before joking, "All the illegal rentals: Exit out this door."