Friday, December 14, 2018

Please rush

Short Term Rentals. We're in the endgame now.
The most wide-ranging aspect of the proposal would require any property used as a short-term rental in a residential neighborhood to have a homestead exemption verifying that the owner lives on the site. That would limit the practice to owners renting out one or more rooms in their own home or, for example, half of a double house when they live in the other half.

That change would eliminate the licenses that now allow entire homes to be rented out for up to 90 days a year, whether or not anyone lives there full-time.

Such rentals are the most common type in the city and have been in the cross-hairs of critics who argue that they allow investors to amass multiple properties, reducing the supply of housing for residents and often leading to neighborhoods emptied of most residents and overrun with hordes of partying tourists.
A homestead exemption requirement has been the most important priority for housing activists since this argument began and it's taken a few years to get us to a point where that goal is close to being realized. As always, the devil is the details. This says the restriction applies in residential neighborhoods which implies it is tied to zoning which further implies that commercial or "mixed use" areas might still be vulnerable to exploitation.

Oh and while I'm typing this, yes, here is the story that lays out that exact problem.
The proposal would also create three categories for short-term rental permits in commercial and mixed-use districts. “Single unit” commercial permits would be similar to residential permits, but for properties in commercial and mixed-use zoning districts, including condos and single-family homes. The permit would require a homestead exemption.

“Small scale” commercial permits would allow properties with four units or less to use the entire building for short-term rentals, except the first floor, which would be reserved for commercial use unless the first floor is already being used for residential.

“Large scale” commercial permits would be for properties with five or more units. These buildings would only be allowed to use 30% of their units as short-term rentals, and would have to add one affordable housing unit for each short-term rental.
The "large scale" permit looks like an acquiescence to the notion that the CBD is a sacrifice zone for wealthy tourists and part-time residents.  They do get us an "affordable" set-aside written in. And, I know housing activists have been more or less conditioned to fight for inclusionary zoning policies lately (and with good reason.) But that's really just indicative of how far the goal posts have been moved. Generally speaking, set-asides are a sop to developers looking to rationalize public approval and/or subsidies for the nice things for rich people they want to build.  Will the "large scale" commercial STR permit described above create enough "affordable housing" to be considered worth the trade?  Probably not.  But we'll wait and see how they end up defining "affordable." 

The "small scale" deal looks tailored to set up STRs all along commercial corridors through neighborhoods.  I'm thinking especially here about the cultural overlay districts along Oretha Castle Haley or Freret Street where you can see developers already trying to figure this out. There's even one on LaSalle Street where there's the possibility of renewed tourism interest.

Still, even though we'd like to see it expanded, it's important that the homestead exemption requirement passes.  Expect a fight.  Even now, several years into the debate, the pro-STR side is worried about regulations being "rushed though."
“We've long been committed to working with the city leaders to find fair, reasonable regulations for short-term rentals, but this proposal was crafted in a backroom without input from key stakeholders like hosts who rely on home sharing and short-term rental platforms,” an Airbnb spokeswoman wrote in an email after being informed of the proposal. “We urge the council not to rush this through."
Uh.. if "rush this through" means getting us about 50 percent of what we want four or five years after we started asking for it, then, yeah, let's rush it through, please. 

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