Short-Term Rentals: THE FINAL VOTE December 1, 2016

Short-Term Rentals

IT’S NOT OVER

FINAL VOTE:  THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1

FQ insideairbnb

The final City Council vote, the one that will decide the rules and regulations for the short-term rental industry in New Orleans, will be on Thursday, December 1.

We need YOU to send the Council a message that key changes will make the ordinance fair, reasonable, and enforceable!

councilmembers 2016Specifically, there are three things that the Council needs to do:

Limit “Temporary” STRs to properties with a Homestead Exemption

First, the ordinance needs to include an amendment that limits the “temporary” rentals to properties with homestead exemptions. CM Susan Guidry introduced such an amendment at the October 20, and it was supported by CMs Latoya Cantrell and Jared Brossett (we thank them all!), falling short by one vote of becoming part of the motion. We urge CM Guidry to try again, and ask the other four councilmembers –Jason Williams, Stacy Head, Nadine Ramsey, and James Gray – to join in support. Tying the “temporary” rentals to homestead exemptions would preclude individuals and corporations from buying up dozens, even hundreds of housing units and renting them out as whole-house rentals. Instead, it would be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the “temporary” category, by limiting this kind of short-term rental to owner-occupants who are leaving town for the summer, or for Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest.

Preclude any vesting of property rights

It’s possible that current or future mayors or City Councils would want to undo some of the legalization provisions that might be approved, which is what happened in Austin. To ensure that neighborhoods would not be stuck with hundreds or thousands of STRs by virtue of them being “grandfathered” in, the ordinance should include specific language that precludes any STR property from acquiring legal non-conforming use status*. It’s vital that we as a city leave ourselves room to reverse course in the event that the promised benefits and promised enforcement don’t pan out.

Bullet-proof the ordinance against suits from Airbnb and other platforms

Lastly, the ordinance needs to have non-severability language. Most ordinances have clauses that allow severability, which means that if a portion of the ordinance is struck down, found illegal, or removed via a lawsuit, the rest of the ordinance still stands. In this case, the opposite is preferable – if any part of the ordinance is removed, the whole ordinance should fall. Why? Because Airbnb has a penchant for “working with” cities to come up with regulations, then suing those same cities to block enforcement. It is possible, for example, that Airbnb or some other platform would wait for the ordinance to pass, and then sue to remove the French Quarter exemption (which has been upheld so far thanks to the efforts of CM Nadine Ramsey). Adding non-severability language to the ordinance would pre-empt such a scenario.

 

These concerns are felt not just in the French Quarter, but citywide, as evidenced by the creation of the Neighborhood Defense Fund, a political action committee funded by citizens that is running radio spots to highlight the need for the homestead exemption amendment.

 

In San Francisco, where Airbnb sued to block enforcement of the law that they helped create, the city has stood firm.  The result?  San Francisco has a one host/one property rule; the platform has agreed to share data; and their city council has voted to lower the number of rental nights to 60 for every single STR.  We know that Airbnb will agree to tighter restrictions when cities insist on it, so why should New Orleans settle for anything less than the deal that San Francisco got?

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Call the City Council.  Email the City Council.
Attend the City Council meeting on December 1.
Share this with friends and neighbors.
TAKE ACTION!

shead@nola.govjasonwilliams@nola.govsgguidry@nola.govlcantrell@nola.gov,
districtc@nola.govjcbrossett@nola.govjagray@nola.govinfo@vcpora.org

Sample email to the council: 

Dear City Council members,

As we move toward a legalization framework for the short-term rental industry, it makes sense for us to take measures to protect our citizens and neighborhoods, especially until we know what the overall impact will be, and how reliable and robust the city’s enforcement efforts will be.

To that end, I ask you to include the following three elements in the ordinance you’ll be voting on December 1st.

Limit “Temporary” STRs to properties with a Homestead Exemption

The spirit of the “temporary” category is to allow vacationing homeowners to rent out their homes while away. Adding this amendment would still offer that to homeowners, while preventing individuals and corporations from buying up housing units and using them solely for short-term rentals.  I thank CM Guidry for offering this amendment on October 20, as well as CMs Cantrell and Brossett for supporting it, and ask the remaining council members to support it on December 1.

Preclude any vesting of property rights

Should this or a future council decide to undo some of the provisions of legalization, such language would allow our city to legally revoke some short-term rental permits, as Austin did when the consequences of legalization engendered widespread public backlash.

Bullet-proof the ordinance against suits from Airbnb and other platforms

Airbnb in particular has a penchant for filing suit against cities to undo parts of the law that they don’t like. Adding a non-severability clause would deter, if not prevent, the platforms from cherry-picking elements of the law that they don’t like and trying to get rid of them.

Sincerely,

Note:  Councilmember Jared Brossett was the sole “no” vote when this matter came up on October 20.  We thank him for listening to the thousands of citizens who want their neighbors and neighborhoods protected, and for putting New Orleanians first!  If you contact his office, please let him know that you appreciate his stance!

 

Susan Guidry 658-1010         James Gray 658-1050

Latoya Cantrell 658-1020       Stacy Head 658-1060

Nadine Ramsey 658-1030      Jason Williams 658-1070

Jared Brossett 658-1040

 

* to be grandfathered in so that the use could only go away if the owner ceased using it for that purpose for a period of 6 months or more

THANK YOU!