Hundreds of thousands of celebrities, dignitaries, CEOs, media, major NFL advertisers and possibly several average football fans are expected to arrive in New Orleans sometime between the end of this month and Feb. 3. Super Bowl 2013, like all Super Bowls, is about the logistics of movement, similar in size to a large military deployment. Most of these people will expect to eat at least once a day — probably more often in New Orleans — and virtually all will want to sleep indoors.
The problem is the New Orleans metropolitan area only has about 37,000 hotel rooms, fewer by half than the seating capacity of the Superdome. And the NFL was guaranteed thousands of those in 2009 as part of the deal the league made when it picked New Orleans as this year's host city.
As the supply winds down to almost nothing, nightly rates have skyrocketed. Available rooms in the downtown skyscraper hotels are nonexistent. Tulane Avenue's motels and motor courts are charging hundreds of dollars a night — if you can find one. According to several recent media reports, Super Bowl attendees are reserving large numbers of rooms in Baton Rouge.
There remains another, much closer option: short-term rentals advertised on Craigslist, VRBO.com and personal sites often run by agents or brokers. Searching for the term "Super Bowl" on Craigslist New Orleans' housing section shows more than 10 new posts every day — even though such ads are often illegal and advertisers can be subject to steep fines and jail time.
Gambit found dozens of apparently illegal short-term rental properties for the Super Bowl posted on Craigslist in late December. The homes were in every corner of the city and ranged from modest one- or two-bedroom apartments to mansions.
That this goes on so flagrantly is understandable, given the payoffs some homeowners anticipate. While illegal short-term rentals are always a problem in a tourism-heavy city like New Orleans, particularly during events like Mardi Gras and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the listed prices for Super Bowl week rentals are averaging more than $1,000 per night.
Among the more notable homes recently advertised is a half-duplex on St. Charles Avenue owned by Dean Kelly, the former model and Aerosmith video star now under house arrest as he awaits trial for allegedly raping two teenage girls. The house is listed at $2,000 for Super Bowl weekend. The advertiser, Kelly Realty, did not return multiple requests for comment.
There's also a luxury penthouse on Lafayette Street, purportedly featured on the reality TV real estate show House Hunters. This home is going for $6,800 per night during Super Bowl week. The ad, posted on Craigslist Dec. 26, said the offer is for a five-day minimum rental: $34,000 plus a security deposit. The listed owners are Monique and Tim Breaux, who also are offering other properties at the nearby Cotton Mill Condominiums.
Contacted by phone, Tim Breaux said all his listings are intended to be rented for at least three months. That would not be in violation of the City Code, which defines "short-term" as anything rented for less than 60 days in the French Quarter and 30 days elsewhere.
"These are not going to be short-term. These are going to be leases," Breaux said.
Even some lawyers are advertising their properties. Elizabeth Haecker Ryan is a director of the Coats Rose law firm and an adjunct law professor at Tulane University. Her State Street home is listed at $10,000 for the Super Bowl. Maid service is included. When Gambit reached her by phone, Ryan declined to comment.
"I've been hearing my neighbors over on my side of town who are being offered $35,000 for their house for five days," said Bonnie Rabe, president of the Professional Innkeepers Association of New Orleans (PIANO) and owner of the Grand Victorian Bed and Breakfast on St. Charles Avenue. "Some of them are taking it and some of them are not."
Though the Super Bowl appears to have created a citywide spike in illegal rentals, and certainly has set price records for many of them, some neighborhoods, particularly the French Quarter, see these sorts of arrangements advertised throughout the year. Organizations such as French Quarter Citizens and the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates Inc. (VCPORA) track them and report them to City Hall. But according to VCPORA board member Mia Matassa, whose family owns Matassa's Market, enforcement often is lax — even though taxes from legal short-term rentals, as well as fines from illegal ones, are a potential revenue stream for the cash-strapped city.