Airbnb touts $3 million tax collection, opponents still not buying it

Airbnb touts $3 million tax collection, opponents still not buying it

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Tuesday, Airbnb announced it has collected more than $3 million in tax revenue for New Orleans since the beginning of the year, but not everyone believes the additional revenue outweighs the potential impact on neighborhoods.

The tax is collected much like when someone stays at a hotel or motel.

Portions of the tax are allocated to the city general fund, the school board and RTA.

The city also collects a $1 fee for every night someone rents a short-term rental to benefit the city's Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund.

In April, regulations began for thousands who used the platform.

Short-term rental websites and apps have changed the way people travel for nearly a decade and gives property owners a way to make extra money.

"It offsets my mortgage and my taxes. It's a lifesaver. It's an absolute lifesaver," resident Carol Cusimano said.

She believes short-term rentals boost the local economy.

"It's wonderful because people don't want to stay in hotels. they want to mix with the neighbors. They want to be in the neighborhood. They want to eat where the locals eat," she said.

Tuesday, New Orleans Deputy Mayor of External Affairs Ryan Berni sent a statement to Fox 8 about the announcement from Airbnb.

"We appreciate Airbnb's continued work with us as we seek to enforce short term rental regulations. These new laws were put into place so the City and our residents can benefit from the economic opportunities that exist, while also better controlling the impact of STRs on neighborhoods. Partnerships with the platforms are essential to make this work both from a tax collection and zoning and code enforcement perspective.  Because of a law authored by Rep. Helena Moreno, we  will soon be getting a higher proportion of the hotel/motel tax on STRs than on traditional hotels.  We are spending the vast majority of revenues on a robust enforcement system which has netted 1,237 violation notices and $224,725 in assessed fines to date."

But while the city and Airbnb tout success, others believe short-term rentals destroy neighborhoods over the long term.

"Every business pays taxes. Every citizens pays taxes. Paying taxes is the cost of doing business. There is nothing special about it. No business should be rewarded or applauded for doing what they're supposed to do automatically," VCPORA Executive Director Meg Lousteau said.

She believes the late-night-party atmosphere the city promotes leads to residents dealing with rowdy tourists regularly.

"Some of the aspects of the damaging impact of short-term rentals are more passive and are what you don't have, what you miss, in terms of having a neighbor you can borrow a cup of sugar from or leave the key with or who will grab a package off the porch. But some of them are quite active," she said.

Lousteau said the two worlds clashed last weekend when this 60 person bus idled outside homes in the Treme neighborhood at 7 a.m.

"Then there was an incident last year where there was a bachelorette party from Texas who put balloons all over the front of the house. I can't describe [the balloons] but they were highly inappropriate for the neighborhood," Lousteau said.

She worries companies and individuals are buying up multiple homes and using them as short-term rentals much like a hotel.

That is also a concern for Cusimano who appreciates the city finding new revenue but wants to make sure its spent building the neighborhood back up.

"I was kind of hoping that this city would turn into the shining star of the South, and I'm not seeing that happen," she said. "I'm a little disappointed because I've seen a lot of changes, but I haven't seen the changes in the areas in infrastructure where things should be happening specifically the roads. I mean this street is a beautiful street, but there's huge holes here."

Since regulations began, 2968 listings have been deactivated from the platform for not getting the proper permits with the city.

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