Over Memorial Day weekend, a Coney Island-style stand-in popped up on a porch on Royal Street in Bywater. The art piece featured two Bywater caricatures on a satirical billboard: "Welcome to the Bywater, where the vacation never ends!" Artist Caroline Thomas, who paints Mardi Gras floats for Royal Artists, created the piece and posted photos on Facebook. The spread went viral. Meanwhile, dozens of people — including many out-of-town visitors — posed for photos, gawked at and talked about the piece outside her home.I just plugged my address into Airbnb for this weekend and got 78 results within a 10 block radius. The average rate is $242 per night. You can see where the incentive for landlords to convert from local tenants to short term tourists is pretty strong.
And her neighborhood is full of those visitors. Most of her block offers a room (or entire home) on Airbnb, she says. She counted 140 Airbnbs within her neighborhood, compared to just a handful of apartments for rent listed on sites like Craigslist.
"We noticed over the past six months a definite shift in the neighborhood," she says. "Big packs of tourists where you see 20 people going down the street with rolling suitcases and you’re like, ‘What’s happening?’ … We walk outside and people are taking constant photos of our house. At first it was charming, then you start to feel like an animal in a zoo."
Recently a renters' advocate group in San Francisco reported on the correlation between Airbnb's presence in neighborhoods with an increased rate of evictions. One person in the audience at last night's Tulane Hilel forum on gentrification told the panel that she had recently been evicted from an apartment in New Orleans she later found on Airbnb. (I was at the Hilel forum and I'll have more on it later.) Gambit was also there and noted the question as well.
Airbnb and renters' rights also were brought up in a discussion about gentrification in the city at The Big Issue forum last night at Tulane University. One person told the panel that she had been evicted to make room for Airbnb. District B City Councilmember LaToya Cantrell said she doesn't doubt that Airbnb is contributing to higher rental rates within the city, and her office is working with at-large councilmember Stacy Head on legislation to address Airbnb — though it's unclear whether that will strengthen enforcement or provide an infrastructure to legalize those rentals. Hotels, bed and breakfasts and neighborhood organizations, meanwhile, still are trying to get the city to enforce short-term rental laws already on the books.What Cantrell actually said, though, about Airbnb was that she and Head were working on ways to "find balance" and that they were thinking specifically about "tax revenue." She concluded by remarking that whatever solution they come up with will have to take into account the fact that New Orleans is a "destination city."
So that isn't very encouraging. But it would be in keeping with the Boutique Strategy for recovery we've been keeping tabs on for some time now.