- Associated Press - Friday, December 2, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The New Orleans City Council has passed what it called “compromise” legislation to begin regulating the short-term rental industry already operating in the city.

Multiple media outlets report Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration drafted rules to regulate short-term rentals and negotiated with AirBnB, one of the major short-term rental companies in the country. Still, the mayor’s sister spoke out against the concept, saying the Garden District neighborhood can’t afford more strain, as it is already burdened with parking problems.

“This is not a good thing for our neighborhood, and we don’t think it’s a good thing for the whole city. We’ve asked for some relief, we’re asking again for some relief,” said Shelley Landrieu, who serves as executive director of the Garden District Association.

“I’m distressed that this council is prepared to trade the unique character of this great city for the elusive remedy of tax remedies,” said Andre Gaudin, an opponent.

“Home-sharing has been a valuable, undeniable, historic and cultural position since Bienville got off the boat in 1718. You can bet he didn’t check into a hotel. He stayed in somebody’s house,” said French Quarter resident Robert Ripley, to applause.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of the regulations Thursday. Councilman Jared Brossett, who proposed several measures that would have tightened the rules, and Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who also has called for greater restrictions, voted no.

Under the rules passed Thursday, several types of rentals will be allowed in the city. Residents with a homestead exemption will be able to rent out rooms or half-doubles as often as they want. Owners of apartments or condos in mixed-use or commercial zoning areas will be able to rent out their entire units year-round. And those who own residential properties will be able to rent them out for up to 90 days a year as a “temporary” rental.

None of those types of rentals will be allowed in the French Quarter - where there’s a decades-old ban on new hotels - except for a six-block stretch of Bourbon Street.

Also, there is an agreement between the city and AirBnB to provide City Hall with information on short-term rentals to aid in the collection of taxes. All short-term rental operators would be required to apply for a permit from the city’s Safety and Permits Department to make sure their property meets zoning and building codes.

Short-term rentals will pay hotel/motel and occupancy taxes, and the New Orleans Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund would be created. One dollar would be deposited into the fund for every night a short-term rental is used.

Permits will range from $50 for temporary short-term rental on property with a homestead exemption, to $500 for commercial short-term rentals.

Those who fail to adhere to the regulations could face fines, property liens and disconnection of their electricity.

The final rules are similar to those given preliminary approval by the council in October.

The short-term rental debate has been going on for years in New Orleans as the practice spread from the French Quarter and other tourist-heavy neighborhoods to properties all around the city. Those listing their property on the sites argue that the money they’ve earned from renting to tourists has led to the rehabilitation of blighted properties and helped homeowners make ends meet. It’s also less difficult for landlords than renting to long-term tenants, they say.

Opponents, including many neighborhood groups, the hospitality industry and some affordable-housing advocates, have argued short-term rentals - particularly of entire homes - have cut down on the supply of units for residents, driven up prices and left neighborhoods hollowed out of permanent residents.

The city has said owners renting out their properties will be required to get permits and be in compliance with the rules by April 1.

It’s not clear how much those taxes and fees will bring in, though city officials are banking on at least $927,000 in hotel taxes in the first year, which will be directed back into enforcement. That enforcement will include monitoring sites, whether they have an agreement with the city or not, to check that their users are in compliance.


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