City council votes to suspend issuing most short-term rental licenses

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - With more than 4,000 short-term rental licenses in the city, city leaders hit pause Thursday on issuing new licenses and renewing some others.

After hours of public comment both for and against making a change, the City Council voted unanimously, passing two motions. With the vote, members issued a message: The city needs to reassess how to issue some short-term rental licenses.

"Short-term rentals are not this great thing that's going to save our city, however it ain't going away," said District B Councilman Jay Banks. "We have to accept the fact it's here, but we also have to balance the economics of short-term rentals with the needs of our citizens and neighborhoods."

The changes will temporarily freeze issuing temporary and commercial licenses for nine months, not 12 months as the original motion read. Those with homestead exemptions have nothing to worry about.

And not all commercial licenses will be turned away. The amendment allows for commercial locations with retail on the lower level and short-term rentals on upper levels to still be granted a license.

Mavis Early with the Greater New Orleans Hotel Lodgeing Association said they've never been opposed to short-term rentals, they've been in favor of New Orleans.

"Neighborhoods is what makes New Orleans New Orleans, but what's neighborhoods are the people of New Orleans and their culture," Early said. "So if you erase that, you erase the authenticity of the city."

Will pausing different licenses immediately deter visitors? Early says no. They're attracted to the city because of what it has to offer, not primarily because of where they can lie their heads.

"We're doing this now because there are too many short-term rentals operating that are illegal," Early said.

She believes in the long run, these motions will encourage even more people to live in, work in and visit the city.

"The neighborhoods are composed of people, and it's about the people. And if 75 percent of the people don't live in the neighborhood anymore, then that affects our culture," Early said.

People can still go through an appeal process if they believe they should be issued a license.

An Airbnb spokeswoman issued the following statement:

"It is disappointing the city council chose to punish many law-abiding New Orleans residents who depend on home sharing to support their families. We have worked closely with the City for more than two years to develop and implement fair rules, which provide the City data and tools to enforce the law and millions in tax revenue, and today's vote flies in the face of the collaborative spirit with which we've approached our work with the City."