In New Orleans, A Regulation Reboot For Short-Term Rentals

In this Aug. 28, 2018, photo, Luz Ramirez closes the door af one of her sone's short-term rental properties after cleaning it, in Mid City New Orleans. New Orleans officials are looking at the benefits and headaches of the vacation rental industry that has proliferated with the growth of online sites such as Airbnb. They've put a halt, for now, on approving or renewing licenses for the short-term rental of whole houses in much of the city. Some rental property owners are crying foul, saying they are being unfairly punished while contributing to the city's vital tourism industry.

In this Aug. 28, 2018, photo, Luz Ramirez closes the door af one of her sone’s short-term rental properties after cleaning it, in Mid City New Orleans. New Orleans officials are looking at the benefits and headaches of the vacation rental industry that has proliferated with the growth of online sites such as Airbnb. They’ve put a halt, for now, on approving or renewing licenses for the short-term rental of whole houses in much of the city. Some rental property owners are crying foul, saying they are being unfairly punished while contributing to the city’s vital tourism industry.



NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The sounds of a raucous pool party drift over a privacy fence amid brightly colored cottages that have become vacation rentals in New Orleans’ Marigny neighborhood, and Allen Johnson laments the dwindling number of full-time neighbors.

“Suitcases are a sign of the times here,” he says as two young men bearing 12-packs of beer exit a taxi and disappear behind an iron gate.

Short-term rentals facilitated by Airbnb, HomeAway and similar web-driven operations have been changing neighborhoods in New Orleans and other cities, generating headaches along with tourist dollars.

Critics in New Orleans say current regulations have allowed proliferation of “whole-home” short term rentals owned by investors — often from out of state — not residents. They complain of an exodus of full-time neighbors amid a lingering dearth of low-income housing and higher property tax assessments.

Also, the visitors often push the limits of city’s heritage of all-night partying.

Battles over short-term rental regulations have been playing out at the municipal and state levels nationwide. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill requiring Airbnb to reveal host’s names and addresses so the city can fight illegal listings. Massachusetts legislators have been debating lodging taxes for short-term rentals. Proposed restrictions on vacation rentals may be put before voters soon in South Portland, Maine.

New Orleans seemed at the forefront of efforts to legalize and regulate vacation rentals in 2016. Airbnb negotiated elements of the regulations and hailed them as a model — a tool for rule enforcement and taxes and fee collection.

Now, the city is trying again, prodded by dissatisfied residents and associations, such as one headed by Johnson.

“We were sold a bill of goods — that it was going to be mom-and-pop,” Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer said, alluding to arguments that it would aid homeowners who want a little extra income.

Palmer won unanimous council approval for a city planning commission study of the issue and a nine-month moratorium on some rental licenses. New Orleans homeowners can still rent part of the house they live in to vacationers, but there are no new or renewed licenses for rentals of whole homes not occupied by the owner.

Airbnb soon removed a registration system from its website allowing short-term rental hosts to apply for a city license, saying it’s not workable under the new changes. A HomeAway spokesman expressed worries that the city was moving toward banning or severely limiting whole-home rentals.

More recently, HomeAway released proposals for changes aimed at “compromise and collaboration.” And Airbnb spokeswoman Laura Rillos issued a statement in mid-August saying her company is open to working with the city on issues including enforcement tools and neighborhood impacts.

Opinions on short-term rentals are as diverse as New Orleans itself.

Sitting at a kitchen table in one of his vacation rental houses, Alex Ramirez, the son of Central American immigrants, recounts buying the two-unit house in a blighted neighborhood, living in one side and renting the other out. As he invested in more real estate, he says, short-term rental revenue enabled him to purchase and renovate abandoned and blighted properties.

“Every one of the properties that I own, whether it’s on the short-term rental market or the long-term rental market, I’ve brought back to commerce,” says Ramirez, who said he owns eight short-term rental properties and manages several others.

Eric Bay, who manages vacation rentals, says they bolster tourism, create jobs and provide affordable lodging for families learning the history and culture of the 300-year-old city.

But some hospitality industry workers see a threat.

“At the end of my lease my landlord asked us to leave” casino worker and union member Dylan Seitel told the planning commission recently. He said his one-time home became a short-term rental.

Susan Beck, an artist and waitress living in half of a two-unit house, sees both sides: The owners of her unit give her a break on the rent for cleaning the other unit — a short-term rental. But noise from a two-story vacation rental across the street can be a nuisance.

“It’s just an odd feeling when I get up in the morning and I come out my front door and there’s a different group of six guys on the balcony every morning,” she adds.

HomeAway’s suggested regulation revamps include allowing property owners to rent out only two properties that they don’t live in; limiting the number of licenses per block face; and an exemption to limits in blighted areas to encourage development.

“Everything’s on the table,” insists Palmer, who said in an interview that regulations may ultimately require large-scale owners of affordable rentals in commercial areas to provide long-term affordable housing.

She stressed that new regulations must address the density of vacation rentals that critics say have commercialized neighborhoods.

“When you live in a neighborhood, you have a quality of life, where you care about the trash, you look out for your neighbors,” she said. “All that’s being eroded, that whole sense of community.”

– by Kevin McGill, AP reporter

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Source: In New Orleans, A Regulation Reboot For Short-Term Rentals

A native of New Orleans, who left her beloved New Orleans to spend twenty years of living in the land of Minnesota Not So Nice. Minnesota was full of opportunities but would learn that the soul of the state and the people who made it was just as icy cold as the temperatures. After the years and my 40th birthday flew by, I decided it was time to pack up my youngest child and come back to my roots, my birthplace the city that not only birthed me but gave me life. I would not be who I am without my New Orleans beginnings. I am all things that would challenge the belief of growing up in New Orleans. I was a 16yr old teen mother of a premature baby born with a severe medical disability. And only With the help of my mother, was it possible for me to BE! I was able to endure and survive the obstacles laid before my child and me. In a city that was built by my family, but did not allow for us to reap the benefits I overcame. Charity Hospital was my second home — a building filled with miracle workers who made it possible for my daughter to have life. I have lived a life of rainy days with peeks of sunshine, that are my children, including those not of my womb. I'm the proud mother of three and a grandmother of three. My dream was to live the life of the nursery rhyme of ”The Old Lady Who lived in a shoe,” and for the most part, I did. I cared for several children over the years as a special needs foster parent. I would learn that my love was not enough for some children, but I loved them through their pain. I'm not sure if I ever had a case of true love or came close to what love looks like on television, but I had my share of men and the mirage of love. I survived two abusive marriages. Though I longed to return to New Orleans on a daily bases, I must admit my move was one of the best decisions made for me. I am a college graduate; I was a successful entrepreneur. I coowned a soul food restaurant and catering company in Minnesota for 12 years. I developed the talent of creating custom cakes after the murder of my beloved cousin Melvin Paul. He survived Katrina only to go to Minneapolis six months later to be murdered over a parking spot dispute. But with the challenge of creating a simple wedding cake, I was able to find healing. I created the House of Cakes in honor of him. Minnesota life had me pretty materialistic. I worked to the point I do not remember much, but work and handing my children love money. I thought by having the big house on the hill, a husband, having a family, the ultimate provider and being involved in all things that matter, plus having the funds to match would cure me of what I was told was a generational curse of lack of everything from money, love to even self-love. But for the most part, that life poisoned my heart and soul. I was blinded by visions fed to me by the media. I was told I wasn't anything unless I was better than the Jones's. I lived being ok with a broken, bleeding heart. Life like this did not exist in my family while living in New Orleans from what I viewed with my eyes and soul. We may not have had all the things I acquired over the years, but we were happy, we were together. Family outside of New Orleans wasn't family anymore. We lived separate lives and had awkward moments when we bumped into each other in public. I hated living in Minnesota even though life their helped me in so many ways. I felt deep down the only way to repair it was to get back to my roots, my soul, my home, myself, my New Orleans. I'm here, and I love it. Even being in the so-called Blighted Area of New Orleans and not having all the financial and material security, I'm happy. I am determined that She, yes, New Orleans is a woman is just like me; together, we will overcome and will rise from all that tried to kill our spirit. Nothing like starting from the bottom and making your way back up!. I just know in my heart that New Orleans will provide for me. There's a bank account with funds in it owed to me by way of back pay for my ancestors. And I will receive my inheritance, and I will continue the traditions and customs of the old to keep the heartbeat of New Orleans beating. I'm down in the boot, living the life that feels right to me awaiting my destiny...

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