Short-Term Rentals Can Help with Affordable Housing Crisis—If We Can Find the Right Mix

Andreanecia Morris
Housing NOLA, Executive Director

On Thursday, January 10, 2019, the New Orleans City Council unanimously voted to direct the City Planning Commission (CPC) to draft changes that would revise the current short-term rental policies and generate millions to create Affordable Housing. Responding to evidence that the short-term rental explosion has played a role in the Affordable Housing Crisis that has been festering since Hurricane Katrina, the council continues to move in a direction to revamp the policies created in 2016. Long before Airbnb and other Web-based platforms were available, New Orleanians were renting out their homes during major events. Given that history, the City Council is now proposing a series of changes that would meet the needs of the majority of New Orleanians—most of whom are cost burdened and paying more than they can afford on their housing.

However, there is still much that must be decided in the coming months and the council will have ample opportunity to clarify their final position. Only three things were clearly established last week: 1) property owners with homestead exemptions will continue to be able rent out their home or units on their property; 2) the City Council intends to generate at least $20 million in new revenue for Affordable Housing annually from an assortment of new fees and 3) the city can and will access untapped millions to create an enforcement system to implement their new short-term rental plan. The issues that are still undefined will be studied by the CPC. We will once again have to debate a proposed cap and matching Affordable Housing requirement in commercial areas and we can expect heated discussions around enforcement guidelines that address the prohibition of collecting fees from unlicensed STRs to increased data sharing.

Even if short-term rentals were completely eliminated from the New Orleans’ housing market, residents would still face a housing affordability crisis. If the City Council stands firm and makes the proposed and necessary changes to properly regulate short-term rentals it will be a needed first step. Alone however, it will not fix these problems for New Orleanians – instead, it will ensure that a bad situation doesn’t get worse. It still falls to our leaders to, in addition to finalizing the changes to short-term rental regulations, implement policy solutions designed to create the right housing mix. These solutions include: 1) full implementation of the Smart Housing Mix; 2) creating policies to ensure rentals meet basic health and safety standards; and 3) facilitating transit-oriented development in areas with strong public transit access.

This is an opportunity to continue to work towards solutions that benefit all New Orleanians, and we must encourage our elected officials to #PutHousingFirst when making these decisions. In the coming months, Mayor Cantrell and City Council will have chance after chance to devote the resources and attention necessary to implement solutions for long-term residents who have seen their housing become less affordable and have been pushed out of their neighborhoods. We have to be vigilant to ensure that they take them.

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