NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It's illegal to use AirBnb in New Orleans, but it can still be profitable.
"It's a complete game changer," a short-term renter said. "It's completely changed my quality of life."
According to AirBnb, the average household in New Orleans who used its site last year earned $10,900.
"I wish this was something that I wish I could have done years ago. I struggled to afford the cost of living for years," the renter said.
But without regulation against those who rent out their rooms or homes, the Greater New Orleans Hotel Motel Association feels the playing field is uneven.
"Because it's basically right now illegal and an underground operation, can the data be trusted? I would say no," Executive Director Mavis Early said. "It could be much more or much less. Given what I'm seeing with other cities, it could be much more."
Early said hotels and motels are still thriving even with sites like AirBnb moving in the Crescent City.
For example, crowds who gather for the upcoming Bayou Classic are anticipated to pack hotels again.
"The trend has been with the Bayou Classic is that every year occupancy goes up. Last year on peak, we had 93 percent occupancy," Early said.
She understands that small homeowners use AirBnb to make ends meet, but she worries big investors are moving into the market renting out several apartments or condos in one building at a time.
"There are the investors who actually this is a business for them and a group of other investors and they'll rent out nine rooms in a house and they maybe doing that in other apartment buildings. We don't know because it's not regulated and because it's not regulated it's not enforced," Mavis said.
With or without enforcement, AirBnb says it's creating a new economic engine.
The company says 35 percent of its customers would not have come or stayed in New Orleans as long without its site.
The tech business also estimates guests spent $140 million at New Orleans businesses last year.
"Nobody wants to rent their home out to strangers but the cost of living has gotten so prohibitively high that it just has been something that is really helpful for me," the short-term renter said.
AirBnb has said it welcomes regulation of short term rentals.
Later this month, New Orleans Council is expected to make a decision if it will introduce regulation.
Tourism industry experts worry even with regulation it would be difficult to enforce.