After three years of debate and pressure from advocates, neighbors, and city planners to better regulate short term rentals (STR) in New Orleans, the City Planning Commission (CPC) recently voted to endorse the newest STR study – a hopeful step towards passing an effective set of regulations by the July 25th Council meeting. Per the request of City Council, this study considered the provision of several exemptions to the new set of proposed STR regulations but generally rejected them, asserting that the regulations must be given a chance to work before they can be adequately modified.
Last month, the City Council proposed a set of stricter STR regulations championed by Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, which address and validate claims that STRs are inherently destructive to the residential fabric of neighborhoods. The new changes would re-write the city’s permissive STR code implemented in 2016, most drastically altering the STR landscape by prohibiting a single operator from having more than one STR residential permit and requiring that the operator reside on the same property. This would effectively eliminate thousands of STR listings that fall into the “temporary license” type, previously the easiest to qualify for and thus most pervasive in the city. As that proposal moved forward, some Councilmembers also requested further study of the potential benefits of STRs as economic development tools in certain neighborhoods and whether exemptions to the one-permit-per-person rule could spur development in those areas.
The study was presented and opened up for public comment at a CPC meeting on June 25th. CPC staff began by summarizing the study, which – in addition to evaluating the creation of an Economic Development Incentive STR Zone – discusses increasing the cap on the number of commercial STRs in a corridor, and the possibility of “grandfathering” existing temporary license holders. On these concerns, it concludes that regulations should be implemented in their baseline form before being watered down or before the Council adds any exceptions. It points to peer cities with even stricter restrictions and finds little relationship between STR presence and local commercial activity. Most firmly, it argues against a grandfather provision: the “temporary license” was designed to be short-lived by definition.
A host of passionate advocates, professionals, and community leaders backed the study’s recommendations and urged CPC to keep moving forward in establishing regulations that address STRs’ harmful spillover into the acceleration of gentrification and exacerbation of the city’s affordable housing crisis. Speakers told anecdotes of watching their tourist “neighbors” take an Uber from their STR to Bourbon Street without stopping to explore the neighborhood or patronize neighborhood businesses. Some argued that STRs can never equitably function as a development incentive. On grandfathering, Breonne DeDecker of Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative reminded the CPC that its role is to promote policies that protect its citizens, not the investments of speculators.A motion to endorse the study’s recommendations was passed unanimously by the commissioners. CPC’s support of this study puts the new regulations in a good position to be formally approved at the July 25th Council meeting, which will significantly shrink the scope of STRs in New Orleans, hopefully to the benefit of residents.