New Orleans council votes to restrict Airbnb-style rentals

The City Council in tourist-dependent New Orleans has approved major restrictions on short-term vacation rentals such as those arranged online by Airbnb

The 7-0 vote bans the short-term rentals of whole houses not occupied by the owners. It also puts limits on the number of short-term rentals on commercial properties and bans all short-term rentals in most of the historic French Quarter and the Garden District.

The new restrictions were months in the making and were largely met with support among those who spoke at the hearing. Applause broke out in the council chamber when the vote was taken.

College professor Helen Regis said her neighborhood near popular entertainment areas has been harmed by the proliferation of short-term rentals. "I have lost a lot of neighbors in the last few years," she told council members prior to the vote.

But there were opponents.

Eric Bay, a city resident who manages short-term rentals, said the council was bowing to a "well-funded hotel lobby" and wrongfully taking away property rights.

And Expedia Group, parent company of vacation rental platforms Vrbo and HomeAway, issued a statement in which spokesman Philip Minardi called the move "shortsighted."

The regulations will still allow homeowners to rent out part of their residences they occupy to short-term visitors. A person who owns multiple units on one property also could get short-term rental permits — if the person lives on the property.

The work isn't done. Council members and residents said methods of beefing up enforcement will be needed. Andreanecia Morris of the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance said she was concerned that, absent strong enforcement, many investors in short-term rental property will ignore the restrictions. "They are just going to go underground and stay underground," she said.