Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Hipster Dizneylandrieu

City Planning has to vote again on short term rental recommendations today.
Plans that would legalize some short-term rentals -- and establish a framework for cracking down on those that continue to flaunt the law -- have been under discussion for years. But those proposals never gained much traction until the City Planning Commission, at the direction of the City Council, began studying the issue earlier this year.

The commission, which has already weighed in on the issue once, is expected to vote Tuesday on recommendations to the council, which will have the final say on the matter.
Yeah they've already done this. But, remember, the mayor had the City Council kick it back to them because he wants them to allow for "whole home" rentals in their recommendations. If you attended the Mayor's budget meetings this year, you would have heard him deflect questions about STRs and affect a hands-off attitude. "Show up at CPC and tell them," was a frequent response of his.  But he's clearly put his own thumb on the scale here. It's disingenuous of him to pretend he hasn't.

Anyway, New Orleans isn't dealing with this issue in isolation. Other cities have already moved faster than we have to get a handle on the short term rental crisis.  One important thing that they're finding out is regulators can never assume Airbnb is acting in good faith with them.
Airbnb executives once promoted San Francisco as a city it could work with. After affordable housing advocates expressed fear that the service worsened the city’s housing crunch, Airbnb agreed to cap short-term rentals for entire homes and required hosts of such listings to register with the city. That law, which became known as the “Airbnb law” for its friendliness to the company, took effect in February 2015.
But only 20 percent of the 7,000 or so hosts required to register have done so, and Airbnb has not removed lawbreakers, according to David Campos, a member of the Board of Supervisors and a longtime opponent of Airbnb. The board hopes that fines will push Airbnb to help enforce the law it helped create.
“Airbnb is proving that it wants to play by its own rules, that it believes that it is entitled to something no business has, absolute freedom to operate free of responsibility and oversight,” Mr. Campos said. “It’s their way or the highway.”
Here's a Next City op-ed from a New York City housing advocate describing the harmful effects STRs have had there on the rental market and on the fabric of the neighborhoods. 
People choose to live in a city, a neighborhood, a building and a unit for a complex set of reasons and variables — all of which connect a group of people at a given time to a given physical place in ways that might not be so obvious, but exist nonetheless. These people add unique experiences, services and ideas to their communities for however long they remain there. Over time, a neighborhood forms an identity from those collaborations and conflicts that makes it both unique and universal. By sharing a place, purposefully or incidentally, people have shaped it.

Airbnb disrupts this, and not in the way it disrupts the hotel industry. The person with that lease, whether it’s the landlord or a professional lister, is still sharing that space with all of those people in their building and their neighborhood. There is a profound responsibility that comes with that whether they acknowledge it or not. The host has chosen to disengage from their home by turning it into a commodity. Whether or not they have the right to is almost beside the point.

The more salient point is that they are also forcing their neighbors to make that choice by turning the neighborhood into a commodity as well. The host has forced their neighbors — who see strangers coming and going constantly — to become just a little bit less engaged and connected to their home. It’s not just that they aren’t benefiting financially, it’s that they are incurring the majority of the social costs and losing what they thought their home was when they moved in. Maybe the Airbnb renter is okay with being in a cheaper “hotel,” but their neighbors didn’t sign a lease to live in any kind of hotel.

Multiply the types of trade-offs that come with Airbnb across an entire neighborhood and what we are left with is Hipster Disney World — one that looks and maybe feels “authentic,” but one that has stopped functioning as a neighborhood is supposed to. Instead, it becomes experiential marketing, make-believe for lifestyle tourists. Inevitably this devolves a neighborhood into some bland version of any other type of similar neighborhood or a kitschy version of itself.
 Local housing advocates have begun to come around too
The Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance position paper, issued Friday (June 17), departs from the group's previous stance on the legalization of short-term rentals. The newly unambiguous declaration could add fuel to an already white-hot debate.
The Housing Alliance called for the city to:
  • prohibit property owners from converting any residential unit, be it a condo in the Central Business District or a shotgun double in Faubourg Marigny, into full-time lodging for tourists;
  • force listing sites to aid in enforcement by disclosing the precise locations of the dwellings they advertise;
  • impose a 2 percent "transaction fee" on short-term rental stays, the proceeds of which would go to the city's Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund, which supports housing for low-income residents; and
  • enforce compliance through stiff fines. 
The Housing Alliance supports allowing homeowners to rent out spare rooms in the houses in which they live, providing them with a supplemental income as property taxes and insurance costs rise. Whole-home rentals, though, should remain off limits, it said.
Will the CPC follow GNOF's recommendations today? Or will they follow the Mayor's lead and push us one step further toward Hipster Dizneylandrieu? 

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