Fight over short-term rentals heads to council committee hearing

Fight over short-term rentals heads to council committee hearing

Among the crowds of tourists who flock to New Orleans each year, many seek short-term rental properties for lodging.

While the growing underground industry is illegal in the city, some hope that will soon change.

"There are definitely people who want to stay in homes. They like the idea of having a living room and kitchen," said one rental property owner, who asked to remain anonymous. "We would like to see the business regulated and taxed."

The property owner is part of a group that calls itself, the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity.

During a city council committee hearing Wednesday, Alliance members are expected to continue their push to legalize vacation rentals, but they face opposition from several groups.

"Before we talk about legalizing anything, the city needs to go into the enforcement mode to see what's really happening," said Meg Lousteau, Executive Director of the group, Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents & Associates.

Lousteau says illegal rentals cause problems in the French Quarter and other parts of the city.

"I certainly understand that people who are making a lot of money off of doing something that's illegal want to continue making a lot of money, and they say they want to legalize it. We don't think that's a good idea," she said.

A common complaint is that the properties can attract rowdy guests, often disturbing neighbors. But the pro-rental group said it would pay for inspectors and self-policing, if the ban is lifted.

"We realize that the noise and the parking is a big situation and it's our top priority to solve it," said the anonymous rental owner. "If a (owner) gets complaints and they don't do anything about them, and they get repeated, then they no longer will be able to be licensed."

For now, the fierce debate continues.

"I think (a law change) definitely will get passed. I think the people on city council realize it will produce revenue for the city, which we need," said the rental owner.

"What this really comes down to is, who do you think New Orleans is for? We think New Orleans is for New Orleanians -- the people who live here, work here, go to school and go to church here, vote here. This other group seems to think New Orleans should be turned over to tourists," Lousteau said.

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