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New Orleans moves to ban most types of vacation rentals


    A family walks down Bourbon Street in New Orleans at dusk.

NEW ORLEANS >> A ban on “whole home” short-term vacation rentals in New Orleans was proposed today by a City Council member, a move long-awaited by critics who say investors were driving up housing costs and marring the character of historic neighborhoods by buying up properties and renting them to out-of-towners.

Kristen Gisleson Palmer’s measure had also been awaited with dread by property owners who own short-term rental properties. And it drew an immediate rebuke in a news release from HomeAway, a business that facilitates online vacation rentals. Spokesman Philip Minardi said the proposal was an “extreme” measure that would penalize property owners who have invested in the community.

“This framework would jeopardize those responsible homeowners without cause, decrease tax collections, and prevent tourism dollars from being spread across the city,” Minardi said in a news release. Backers of non-owner-occupied short-term rentals also say the practice can help revitalize blighted neighborhoods.

A homeowner who wanted to rent out parts of his or her home to vacationers could still do so under the proposal, as long as that owner remains on the premises. But Palmer aims to stop investors from buying up houses in neighborhoods strictly for the purpose of making them into vacation rental spots. Complaints about short-term renters taking the place of long-term residents have been especially strong in the Marigny and Treme neighborhoods, where critics have said vacationers have sometimes noisily pushed the limits of the city’s tolerance for revelry.

Palmer’s proposal also extends an existing ban on short-term rentals in the French Quarter to include the city’s Garden District. And it requires that building owners in some commercial areas match their short-term rental units with an equal number of affordable housing units.

Opponents of short-term, whole-home rentals won council approval in May of a temporary ban on the issuing of any new licenses for whole-home rentals, a precursor to Thursday’s proposal. The council is expected to get its first official look at Palmer’s proposal next week.

Cities and states have been grappling with the issue of how best to regulate short-term rentals for years.

In November, for instance, news outlets reported that Washington’s city council voted to restrict short-term rentals to primary residences, and limit rentals in which the owner is absent to 90 days per year. In South Portland, Maine, the Portland Press Herald reports that a ban on non-owner-occupied short term rentals takes effect Jan. 1.

San Diego City Council’s October vote to repeal its regulations that, among other things, barred the short-term rentals of second homes.

Airbnb, perhaps the best known online facilitator of short-term rentals, did not offer an immediate comment on Palmer’s proposal but said its own commissioned poll indicates a majority of New Orleans residents support short-term Airbnb rentals — both those in owners’ primary residences and those used as full-time Airbnb rentals.

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