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Short-term rentals in New Orleans: CPC recommends onsite operator rule, 1 STR per block

A short-term rental in New Orleans.
Carly Berlin
A short-term rental in New Orleans.

New rules for short-term rentals could require that operators – rather than property owners – live onsite at buildings they list on platforms like Airbnb, and could cap the number of STRs in residential neighborhoods at one per blockface.

That’s based on a preliminary report from the City Planning Commission emailed to WWNO on Thursday.

Currently, all STRs must have both an owner and an operator license. In residential neighborhoods, owners must prove the property is their primary residence, but they can outsource the management of their STR to another person – an operator – who can hold an unlimited number of permits.

The CPC recommends that the residency requirement be shifted to the operator, instead of the owner. And rather than require that operators prove residency through a homestead exemption, they would need to provide at least three pieces of evidence to prove they live full-time onsite, like a driver’s license, bank statement, or pay stub.

That requirement would effectively restrict operators to just one license, and would also require them to be a “natural person,” rather than a business entity like an LLC. The CPC also recommends that the owner be a natural person.

This recommendation from the CPC is slightly different from the city’s primary-residence requirement from 2019, which stated that STR owners in residentially-zoned areas needed to prove they lived at the residence they rented out by showing they had a homestead exemption for the property — essentially proving the building was their primary residence.

It was that rule, in part, that led STR owners to file a lawsuit against the city, and in August 2022, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the homestead exemption requirement violated the U.S. Constitution.

Now, City Hall is under the gun to pass new STR laws by the end of March – a deadline set by the court. The CPC’s recommendation marks the next step in City Hall’s push to pass updated STR rules.

The CPC also suggests capping the number of residential STRs to one per blockface.

Right now, there are about 130 blocks with more than one residential STR permit, according to the CPC’s analysis. There are 288 residential STR permits on those blocks, which adds up to 23% of residential permits citywide. Most blocks that contain multiple residential permits are in neighborhoods surrounding the French Quarter, including the Marigny, Bywater, Tremé, and Mid-City, and in neighborhoods surrounding the Garden District, including Central City, the Lower Garden District and Irish Channel, according to the CPC.

That means some current permit holders may not be able to hold onto their licenses. Because of the court decision, “current STR permit holders may be unable to maintain that entitlement,” according to the report. The Department of Safety and Permits will create a lottery system “that ensures an equitable distribution of permits per blockface,” the report said.

The CPC also recommends consolidating the existing residential short-term rental permit types – partial, small and large – into one umbrella “non-commercial” category. The changes recommended don’t majorly impact commercial STRs.

The CPC will hold a public meeting about the report on Tues, Jan. 24 at 1:30 p.m. in the city council chambers.

After that, it’ll be updated and passed on to the City Council for consideration.

Carly Berlin is the New Orleans Reporter for WWNO and WRKF. She focuses on housing, transportation, and city government. Previously, she was the Gulf Coast Correspondent for Southerly, where her work focused on disaster recovery across south Louisiana during two record-breaking hurricane seasons. Much of that reporting centered on the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in Lake Charles, and was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

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