City Council members want short term rental enforcement funding details

City Council members want short term rental enforcement funding details

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - With a new set of short term rental rules and regulations, many are eager to see them enforced. Yet, before that happens, some city council members want to make sure the money set aside for enforcement is actually being spent on it.

City Council President Helena Moreno is one leader pushing for that guarantee.

“We’ve already received about $6 million. We will have another $6 million coming in. I think that’s plenty of money towards enforcement,” Moreno said.

Moreno has been working to address enforcement funding for short term rentals since she was in the legislature.

“We knew that with the state tax dollars that were going to be collected, we could ensure those dollars would be spent for enforcement, if we put them into a quality-of-life fund and made that directive that money could only be spent towards enforcement,” Moreno explained.

The legislature pushed her bill through in 2017, appropriating over $4 million annually to enforcement alone. However, before the city ramps up enforcement efforts with the passage of a new set of rules and regulations for short term rentals, Moreno said she wants a few questions answered.

“We would like to see how this money, the $6 million, how that has been spent and plans on how to spend it in the future,” Moreno said.

Moreno posed similar questions to Gilbert Montaño -- the city’s Chief Administrative Officer -- in a governmental affairs meeting at the end of July.

"What can we do to track those dollars? Do we have the accounting on those just so we know that that money was going through towards enforcement?" Moreno asked.

“I do not believe we do have it to that specificity. No,” Montaño answered.

Now, Montaño says enforcement involves almost every city department.

“It makes it a little bit more complicated, not impossible, to really extrapolate to the 10th, the dollars associate with enforcement,” Montaño said.

FOX asked for a breakdown of how the $6 million already allocated was divvied up. Montaño provided documentation detailing the percentage of man hours used from each department on short term rental enforcement, as it currently exists.

Most of the work, more than 20 percent, comes from Safety and Permit employees.

Montaño also provided the itemized report he submitted to the state, regarding the city’s enforcement expenditures. It covers everything from postage to advertising and utilities. The money is currently being spent.

“We really have to reevaluate with the actual revenue stream because, as you’ll see, the costs are about $7.3 million,” Montaño said.

He said the city has enough money to enforce as it’s currently enforcing, but that could change based on the new regulations, specifically, if the approximately 6,000 un-permitted, short term rentals paying taxes were to bough out.

"The threat maybe to the revenue, but the benefit maybe to the neighborhood," he said. "We just need to see the outcome of that, what it actually looks like and the numbers."

Meanwhile, Moreno said she remains focused on a different set of numbers.

“We want to make sure this money is going towards enforcement and we still await those details from the administration,” Moreno said.

She is pushing for a central enforcement office, whether it’s under safety and permits or a stand-alone office, where all the money for short term rentals can be sent to ensure it’s being used. Montaño said he likes the idea in theory, but says a stand-alone office wouldn’t work, due to city policy.

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