City Councilwoman Stacy Head said the request on Laurel Street, particularly, takes two housing units off the long-term rental market and converts them into tourist housing. Head said she supported the legalization of short-term rentals in commercial areas, but did not intend to convert residential neighborhoods to commercial zoning to allow them to proliferate.
“This seems to be in conflict with your cry for more affordable housing,” Head said to Cantrell. She explained later, “I do not believe we should allow the creeping into neighborhoods that are otherwise residential by changing the zoning to commercial.”
The short-term rental issue should not be blamed for the city’s lack of affordable housing, Cantrell shot back. That, she said, was the result of intentional efforts by city leaders after Hurricane Katrina.
“Affordability and the crisis that we’re in in the city of New Orleans is not because of short-term rentals,” Cantrell replied. “It’s because the issue of housing was not a priority in the post-Katrina environment. Resources allocated for the city of New Orleans, millions in fact, were reallocated because there was sentiment coming from policymakers in this city that New Orleans was on the path of having too many affordable units.”
Should we try and puzzle out what LaToya means by that botched line about "policymakers" and "too many affordable units"? It's not clear even she knows what she means. Cantrell, like all of the major candidates in this dumb JV election, is a herd animal. None of them is running for mayor to advance some grand cause. They're just here because they've risen far enough within their own social/civic spheres to get the sense that this might be their turn at the top. Sure, there are issues and stuff that voters might want to hear about. But the candidates exist at a remove from all of that so they rely on staff, and survey research, and friends and advisors to tell them what to say.
Not that that helps a whole heck of a lot. In the case above, we assume someone has told LaToya a "mistakes were made" version of the past decade of housing policy she and her allies have presided over. Sure, all we did was knock down public housing and build a bunch of nice things for rich people but "the sentiment coming from policymakers" was that was the right thing to do. It's an ironclad rule of establishment politics that it's fine to be continually wrong about everything so long as you are wrong for the right reasons. That is, so long as you are also the right people. In LaToya's circle, landlords and real estate developers are always the right people.
And that must be why she's still listening when the same right people are telling her short term rentals really aren't a problem. Evidence to contrary abounds. We like to think we've done a decent job keeping track of that on this here website. The Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative has been studying the local market since the passage of the local STR law and will present its findings on September 27. That's a free event, if you're interested.
For what it's worth, Desiree Charbonnet who, make no mistake, is also an empty husk of a candidate grasping to say whatever words test the best among strategically significant demos, has published a contrasting position on STRs on her website under a big bold red heading
Yes, that is poorly framed. "Technological advances" aren't causing the problem. The technology in question is just the internet. STRs are spiking and housing is unaffordable because we have an unhealthy economic system based on asset ownership and regulatory arbitrage rather than on sustainable, equitable wealth creation. The problem is that our elected representatives are deliberately enabling this. Having said that, Charbonnet is proposing to tie STR permits to homestead exemptions which is something City Council specifically voted not to do last year. It's not the most daring plan but it is something. So far it's the closest thing to a substantive conflict between two candidates on a critical issue so it's worth following as the public forums ramp up.
SHORT-TERM RENTALS CAN MAKE THINGS WORSETechnological advances have produced a spike in short-term rentals (via AirBnB, VRBO, etc.), which can change the character of neighborhoods and remove affordable rental housing from the market. New Orleans is a city where 60% of residents rent, so the damaging effects are profound and make a citywide impact. In short, housing policy is not just about buildings; it’s about the very social fabric of our city. It’s also not just about new construction, but also about helping people stay in their neighborhoods.