By the Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS— Responding to residents who say short-term rentals such as those arranged by Airbnb are driving up property taxes and steadily denigrating the character of historic neighborhoods, the New Orleans City Council voted Thursday to impose broad new restrictions on such rentals.
The 7-0 vote bans the short-term rentals of whole houses not occupied by the owners. It also puts limits on the number of short-term rentals on commercial properties and bans all short-term rentals in most of the historic French Quarter and the Garden District.
The new restrictions were months in the making and were largely met with support among those who spoke at the hearing. Applause broke out in the council chamber when the vote was taken.
College professor Helen Regis said her neighborhood near popular entertainment areas has been harmed by the proliferation of short-term rentals. “I have lost a lot of neighbors in the last few years,” she told council members prior to the vote.
But there were opponents.
Eric Bay, a city resident who manages short-term rentals, said the council was bowing to a “well-funded hotel lobby” and wrongfully taking away property rights.
“While this vote provides much needed regulatory certainty for home sharing in New Orleans, the rules unfairly punish responsible short-term rental hosts who are contributing to the local economy,” Laura Spanjian, of Airbnb, said in an emailed statement.
And Expedia Group, parent company of vacation rental platforms Vrbo and HomeAway, issued a statement in which spokesman Philip Minardi called the move “shortsighted.”
Also included in the package approved Thursday are fee schedules and requirements that online platforms calculate and collect taxes and fees.
The regulations will still allow homeowners to rent out part of their residences they occupy to short-term visitors. A person who owns multiple units on one property also could get short-term rental permits — if the person lives on the property.
The work isn’t done. Council members and residents said methods of beefing up enforcement will be needed. Andreanecia Morris of the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance said she was concerned that, absent strong enforcement, many investors in short-term rental property will ignore the restrictions. “They are just going to go underground and stay underground,” she said.