Short-term rental (STR) rules need tweaking

 

Short-term rental public hearings continue at the city level. I just watched the city planning commission’s latest public hearings, this since the recent commission study commissioned by the city has been released.

As readers of my blog know, I am in favor of STRs being allowed, albeit with provisions including increasing public profile sites, neighbor reviews and data sharing between sites.

After reading quickly through the long report (will read more thoroughly over the next weeks), it is clear to me that there are some flaws that need to be addressed including taxation and data sharing.

by the way, I don’t appreciate how many residents of other neighborhoods when testifying feel the need to dismiss the French Quarter and state that it is not a neighborhood; we are and remain the classic version of the mixed use neighborhood with residential, commercial, short-term and entertainment districts. Even the NOCVB feels the need to oversimplify the requests of visitors looking for “authentic New Orleans” and things to do outside of the FQ; let’s be clear that the Quarter is authentic New Orleans and that many of those visitors ask about other areas after they have visited previously, using the Quarter primarily.  I believe QoL enforcement is likely higher in our neighborhood by our residents who are hyper-vigilant in watching their block and larger area. So stop dismissing us as a neighborhood.

As a matter of fact, the French Quarter knows best what STRs can do well and what they can do badly. What we know is that many of our short-term residents have become long-term through many visits and that is a very good use of the system. Additionally, those visitors who use STRs also use grocery stores, farmers markets, delivery services, bicycle rentals and other residential services and will encourage more of those.

•As Meg Lousteau pointed out in her 2 minutes, why not require data from sharing sites instead of shrugging and saying it is impossible to regulate this industry?

•I also disagree with opponents who stated that this is a commercial use with residential impacts; I think that the best and most use of STRs is the opposite and should be regulated as such.

•If the current regulations for rentals require two months in the French Quarter and one month at a minimum elsewhere in city, then why not cap STR at that numeric level? so 6 for year in the Quarter and 12 elsewhere per rental?

•I’d suggest changing the renewals to every 18 months and not every 3 years; since this is for SHORT TERM uses, everyone should have to reconsider the use of their property every 18 months.

•I do agree with the proponent who pointed out that since the largest STR site offered to start to collect taxes on their site, we should at least consider it as the potential taxing entity, rather than immediately going to the state to increase sales taxes.  That taxation plus fees in the permitting stage and in fines can assist with the functionality of this oversight; most of the taxes and fees should go to managing this set of regulations, but 10% of the fees should go back to the neighborhoods each year to be used for QoL improvements. The amount given to each neighborhood should be based on the percentage of permits it includes.

•First out of the box permitting is not the best idea; I agree with the CPC commissioner that this will benefit the biggest STRs and those most active which is not the right use.

It might be better to ask for online registration of permitting requests and spend time researching STR sites and asking for plans (how often they hope to rent, how many nights they will require, other rules of the house which will be listed on the STR sites) from each applicant which must include pictures and description of the site. The initial permits would then be offered to those who provide the most information and based on the permits available. Additionally, once the permitting begins, renewals should be partly based on the neighbors reviews and the online profile.

•All of the enforcement should include reviews and written online input by neighbors (that input should require leases, utility payments or primary residence property in Orleans parish to allow that input) along with a special STR commission that meets every 6 months to mediate immediate issues. Anytime a property owner is brought to the mediation process, that record should be added to the public profile of the STR.

Reviews by neighbors abutting should be included in the STR public reviews.

The online profile should be reviewed by STR staff at least once every year, with notes added to that file.

The conditional use process is probably the right process for allowing FQ STR permits except for owner-occupied rentals.

•What is termed as MG rentals of a total 30 days or of 4 rentals per year need special rules and should require re-permitting yearly.

•6 people should be allowed in any STR with 1200 sf or less, 9 people for 1201-2000 s.f. with a cap at 9 people at these rentals. 3 max for less than 600 sf. Nothing under 80 s.f. in rental space should be allowed.

•I agree with Dana Eness of Urban Conservancy that the STR parking requirements are counter to the water management goals of the city and parish.

•All STRs should be listed on sites under the formal leasee or property owner and linked to their city property tax rolls, and not allowed to be listed under other accounts.

•The online system should show a real time map of permitted STRs AND un-permitted STRs listed on online sites. That map and set of listings should be used for every permit and renewing permit.

Thank you for the CPC staff Rivers for pointing out that density is a constantly-changing reality in every neighborhood; He pointed out that density has decreased in the Marigny over the last 40 years because of duplexes and fourplexes turning back to single homes. That density has to be considered in the present day, which is often not the case with opponents arguments on STR. Density changes and with that, uses change, but simply because your residence has changed to a single-family residence does not mean the entire neighborhood has as well.

Thank you to the commissioner (chair?) for pointing out that different densities offer different privacy shields and that it may be best that the historic corridor have different requirements because of that fact.

Thank you to Commissioner Marshall who asked for causality on the assertion that the in-demand neighborhoods are going to see higher rents because of STRs, rather that in-demand neighborhoods have always had higher rents  and that the market of development has driven the skyrocketing rents (and I’ll add THAT  the lack of affordability in every neighborhood should be addressed by City Council separately and immediately and with as much attention as the STR fight has been given.)

 

Advertisements

Every Single County in America Is Facing an Affordable Housing Crisis-CityLab

When people overreact about airbnb, I think I’ll bring this story up. Affordable housing has been in a crisis for some time, long before that site was created.
The lack of affordable housing issue comes from the same old greed that has allowed this crisis to happen in every place in the US (not all of which are airbnb-heavy counties): owners cashing in on the highest rates they can get for their property, whether the culprit are developers or homeowners. If you want to charge at the high end of market rates (whether through airbnb or Craigslist/classifieds or using brokers or any other system), then you are going to get a revolving door of tenants and those tenants are not going to care about the area or the neighbors. If you want to have responsible tenants, then map out something that works for both parties whether using airbnb, a handshake or Craiglist/classifieds or using brokers or any other system. As for those who use airbnb to decimate their neighborhoods: those folks have been around since the first days of the Industrial Age, using any means necessary to populate their slums. The way to counteract those slumlords is for a city government to take affordable housing seriously, and begin to address that issue without penalizing those homeowners (and yes renters) that use their property properly to offer good places to long-term neighbors and to the type of visitors interested in participating in community when they travel, and for short-term and newly arriving residents.
I find it ironic that those who are crying the loudest against airbnb are not now (and have never been noted for) demanding rent controls or incentives to increase long term affordable housing. (Interestingly, after Katrina, the vitriol against public housing was shocking and directed almost entirely at those trapped in the cycle of poverty for generations as their neighbors and neighborhood associations applauded the shuttering of well-built, brick townhouse and had no issue with the crap now being slowly built in its place with much of it reserved for market rate apartments.) I have been lucky for almost my entire renting life to have caring and responsible homeowners that I have rented from (including presently, stand up and wave to the people, E and D) and they always repay my loyalty with their own, but too many of my friends are being priced out of the city because of this type of rampant market-rate greed that started IMMEDIATELY after Katrina (long before airbnb) and so lets call it what it is. I have long advocated for the city to offer tax credits for rent-controlled listings or at least for those who offer rates on the low end or middle. I think the DDD should offer incentives to the owners of Canal Street businesses to develop their upper floors for the service industry to be able to be in walking distance of their workplaces, and the same with the Quarter (as a resident, I can show you how many floors over storefronts are completely vacant; it would boggle your mind).
Airbnb done badly is just a symptom of that greed and outlawing it will not stop slumlords but will reduce the number of caring residents who use it responsibly to make the mortgage or to keep their apartment if they need to be away for a month or two. Airbnb offered the data in 2013 that 89% of their listing were single listings of primary residences. (If you suspect that data is 100% accurate, I will say that i have some skepticism just as I do about hotel data, but I can tell you that in my 20+ airbnb trips, all but 2 of them have been primary residences and those 2 were well-managed European hostel-style with strict rules about behavior.) As a constant traveler, I appreciate the ability to stay in a neighborhood and get to know residents, and to be able to walk to the store and to the metro or bus. I cannot tell you how many times before airbnb that I was in a hotel “zone” with no place to walk to get food and little access to public transportation, no one to talk to about what or where it was safe for a woman alone, adding up to what was often a stressful experience.
Check out these sensible recommendations for short-term housing (including different rates for primary residence airbnbs and a cap on the number of short-term rentals in any one area):

http://www.theselc.org/draft_short_term_rental_recommendati…, but let’s recognize that the boogeyman has been among us for some time and cannot be solved by outlawing a sharing site.

Affordable Housing Crisis

“UnfairBnB” from Antigravity Magazine

I disagree with the writers’ stance that airbnb is the chief cause of rentals to be unavailable to residents. As someone who believes in the informal economy, I have used it quite often in my travels. Almost all of the airbnb places where I have stayed have been people’s homes with an extra set of rooms for guests or a mother-in-law house. Many of the folks have raised kids who are now off at college and want to share their home still and so I have met some wonderful people and felt safer being in a neighborhood than staying in a large corporate hotel often found in a industrial park without access to local business or any where to walk after the work day is over. And as someone who has been a renter in this city for over 30 years, it is my contention that it ain’t airbnb that has stopped rent controls or that reduces the number of rentals for residents, but the corporate infrastructure that encourages profiteering on home flipping or corporate rentals without any management oversight, as well as the inability of the city or state to enact a post-disaster punishment for those who delay their repairs for no reason except that they own too much or refuse to pay for good repairmen to get it all done right in a reasonable time. Let me be clear-I am not identifying those folks who STILL wait for payments or are fighting bureaucracy, or have been ripped off by unsavory workers as the problem because the system is also weighted against them to work in favor of those connected and ruthless profiteers. Also, slumlords or invisible homeowners who abuse airbnb.com probably abused Craiglist, or the TeePee classifieds, or any other short or long term term rental situation that has benefited other neighborhoods or visitors who want to be good citizens and keep their property kept up and rented. Outlawing airbnb.com is not the answer; the answer is more likely direct action among citizens on rental property rules and protecting renters rights along with good homeowners rights. Too many short term rentals in one block IS wrong, but is not the stem issue, I believe.
The writers’ assertion that the bike lane along Esplanade is a white stripe of divide is so foolish that is shows that the basis of the article is far-fetched, and badly researched. The percentage of New Orleanians that do not have regular access to automobiles has always been a large number (over 25% before the federal levee breaks) and for anyone who gets around before the sun is entirely up will see more working men using those lanes than porkpie wearing hipsters. As one commenter points out, the complete streets approach to adding the lanes is based on adding the chosen and researched lanes when the streets are repaired. That St. Claude was outfitted before Esplanade and that these lanes act as a traffic calming device for regular people to cross the streets or to check for a bus are important points of which the writers seem unaware.
Honestly, the issue with short term rentals is one that should be discussed in each neighborhood but to identify neighborhood associations as the savior that the city has not been is as foolish as his bike lane bashing; My opinion is that these organizations are often protectionist home owner associations and do almost nothing for renters. I left a longer comment at the end of his article and would recommend that folks peruse some of the thoughtful comments left by others on there as well.

UnfairBnB: What Unlicensed Short-Term Rentals Mean for New Orleans – Antigravity Magazine.