Locals battle over zoning changes for short-term rentals

Locals battle over zoning changes for short-term rentals

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - As short term rentals grow in popularity, more and more local property owners are looking to get in on the action. Yet, some say the influx of rezoning permit applications is getting out of hand.

"It was a flophouse before. It was blighted, it was awful and now he's made 919 a very beautiful property," attorney Bob Ellis says about his client's property.

In just over a week, residents in the Lower Garden District will be able to meet with the owner of 919 Jackson Avenue. He's looking to have zoning changed to allow for commercial short-term rentals.

"A lot of people are turning to short-term rentals as a way to turn their property into the highest and best use," said Ellis.

Ellis says it's a sign of a growing industry. He and the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity worked with the city for legalization of short-term rentals. It's something opponents say has only caused the city problems.

"It's a real burden on residents to have to fight every battle," said Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates Executive Director Meg Lousteau.

Lousteau says recent requests to spot zone individual properties after a comprehensive, city-wide rezone, is merely a way for property owners to make more money, despite locals' concerns.

"This is exactly what the citizens of New Orleans said they did not want. They did not want entire house is turned into hotels, and yet, that is exactly what we're seeing with this rash of applications," explained Lousteau.

Earlier this week, the city shut-down a proposed ice cream shop on Louisiana Avenue because neighbors were opposed to the owner's plan to use two of the apartments as short-term rentals.

"The upzoning would have allowed a lot more than an ice-cream shop," said Lousteau.

Ellis says he understands, but contests, his client is different.

"We're very specific," Ellis said.

The surge in applications come as New Orleans garners national attention for its influx of short-term rentals, like a Huffpost article alleging backlash from Airbnb.

"We were thrilled with the national coverage of what's happening to New Orleans neighborhoods," said Lousteau.

"There are so many facts in that that are questionable at best," Ellis argued.

Ellis contends short-term rentals were never meant to consume entire city blocks. He says caps and strict enforcement will help to eliminate bad operators as the industry continues to grow.

"We look forward to revisiting it with the new counsel and the new mayor and we do want changes, too," said Ellis.

Yet, Lousteau believes more drastic measures are in order.

"I think there is a groundswell among the citizenry to demand a repeal of some of the legalization that was approved last December," Lousteau said. "I can assure you, it is damaging our neighborhoods and our sense of community."

The Jackson Avenue property meeting is set for Nov. 28 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at 919 Jackson Avenue.