NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The City Council passed what it called "compromise" legislation Thursday to begin regulating the short-term rental industry already operating in the city, but not before members of the public sounded off for and against the practice.
"I prefer short-term rather than long-term anyway, because I don't want them tearing up my property," said one Ninth Ward resident.
"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.
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 short-term rentals and said the Garden District neighborhood cannot 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.
Other opponents said low-income renters will be forced out of properties to make room for tourists.
"There will be people who are hard-working three jobs to make this city what it is. They're going to be homeless, homeless shelters all around this city because they aren't going to be able to afford to stay nowhere. But rather than take a $1,500 voucher, people are going to be saying, 'I can get $1,500 a week,'" said Al Mims.
Council members Jared Brossett and Susan Guidry voted against the ordinance that contained zoning changes to allow for the short-term rentals, and they voiced concerns about the impact on neighborhoods.
"I feel like we're giving up too much of our neighborhood protections to short-term rentals," said Guidry.
The mayor's office said property owners with homestead exemptions who rent out rooms in their homes will be able to do so year-round under the regulations.
"If there is not a homestead exemption on the property, you can do it for up to 90 days per year," said Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni.
However, short-term rentals will be banned in most of the French Quarter.
"The commercial permits are allowed, but only in the Vieux Carre' Entertainment District, which is the 200 through 700 Block of Bourbon. The idea there is that it will promote more uses on Bourbon Street so that we can hopefully change some of the types of things on the bottom floors," Berni said.
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.
"Short-term rentals and home sharing is already happening in the city, so how do we regulate it? How do we tax it so that there are regulations in place for life safety measures?" asked Berni.
Those who fail to adhere to the regulations could face fines, property liens and disconnection of their electricity.