Monday, June 13, 2016

Air tax

It's fun when we get to agree with Owen Courreges about something. It doesn't happen all that often. In turn, Owen rarely agrees with VCPORA. And yet here we all are in agreement. Well, except for the mayor, I guess.
In an utterly unprecedented move, Mayor Landrieu recently began to require property owners to sign lease agreements for the “air rights” to balcony features that encroach on city property, leases that can cost upwards of $4,000 per year. The agreements are normally required before a property owner can obtain necessary inspections or building permits.

What this means is that property owners are confronted with two equally-perverse incentives: 1) to not build or retain their galleries; and, 2) to refuse to cooperate with the city in securing building permits for any work performed.

Predictably, advocacy groups and sundry neighborhood organizations are up in arms. “It’s part of the fabric of the city. It doesn’t make sense to penalize people for that,” said Meg Lousteau, head of the Vieux Carre Property Owners and Residents Association (VCPORA).

Although we’re rarely on the same side of any issue, VCPORA has a point here. Landrieu’s policy makes absolutely no sense, except in a single regard – it generates revenue. One of the first tricks Landrieu learned was to task his departments to increase revenues from fines and fees through creative means. Agencies have become less reasonable and more greedy under his direction.
In a way this is similar to the extortionate criminal justice system of fines and fees we just referenced in a previous post. It's less egregious in that it's aimed at property owners in historic neighborhoods but the principle is the same. The city is on the lookout for ways to squeeze money out of, literally, thin air. And why not? I mean isn't this more or less what the whole 21st Century economy is based on?

Nowadays, imaginary value conjured out of nothing via regulatory arbitrage is the just a fancy way of saying "entrepreneurship."  Besides tourism, the amazing resilience of the city's 'Treppin elite is the mayor's favorite subject.   It's hardly surprising that any of this would be right up his alley. Doubly so when someone finds a way to combine those two areas
A formalized proposal to legalize Airbnb-style rentals in New Orleans could face it first vote Tuesday (June 14).

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune will be in the City Council auditorium to cover the City Planning Commission's meeting live when it begins at 1:30 p.m.
That's tomorrow. The rest of that T-P article is styled as a "primer" for those who may have come late to this. But here is the key bit about what tomorrow's meeting means.
In recommending the regulatory framework majority of the commissioners voted against legalizing principal-residential rentals. However, the City Council, at the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, then asked the commission draft a set of amendments codifying the planning staff's initial recommendation, which included them. 
CPC, following the concerns of many residents and wary of the negative experience of "destination" cities around the world, wanted to limit the practice of turning whole homes and apartments over exclusively to Airbnb. The mayor rejected their modest recommendation and is making them do it over.

The public meeting is sure to draw a lot of attention.  The pro-STR lobbying group with the Orwellian name "Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity" is pretty good at turning out their membership to events like these when it counts. It helps that a lot of them are professional lawyers and lobbyists who can bill the time unlike the wage earning renters who have more trouble showing up in the middle of the day. So expect a lot of hot air in the room.  If only there were a way to tax it.

Update: Ah and CPC has postponed the vote. It looks like the topic is still on the agenda? Maybe? If so the meting might still be entertai9.

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