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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Bywater, Marigny, St. Roch residents march against whole-home short-term rentals

Posted By on Sun, Oct 2, 2016 at 8:48 PM

click to enlarge A parade opposing whole-home short-term rentals was held today in the Bywater, Marigny and St. Roch neighborhoods. It was staged in Bywater's Mickey Markey Park.
  • A parade opposing whole-home short-term rentals was held today in the Bywater, Marigny and St. Roch neighborhoods. It was staged in Bywater's Mickey Markey Park.

About 125 downtown residents held a "neighborhood parade" this afternoon to protest whole-home short-term rentals. The issue — debated for years — has heated up in recent months in New Orleans, and it's scheduled to come before the New Orleans City Council for a vote Oct. 6. The City Planning Commission has recommended banning whole-home rentals, but the Council has been hesitant to rule them out completely, partially at the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration.  

The event was the brainchild of Bywater resident and artist Devin DeWulf, who said the homemade parade — complete with babies in strollers, dogs and the Treme Brass Band — was an "opportunity to celebrate a bit," and stressed that "no one" was objecting to a homeowner renting out a bedroom in his or her house as a side hustle. "But we have people who are out-of-town landlords that rent out whole houses like hotels," he said.

"The City Council can do whatever they want," DeWulf added, "but they have a history of disregarding the recommendations of the City Planning Commission."

click to enlarge A flyer stapled to a telephone pole across from St. Roch Market.
  • A flyer stapled to a telephone pole across from St. Roch Market.

Janine Hannel, another Bywater resident, said she knew "a couple of people" in her neighborhood who had been displaced by landlords so their apartments could be turned into short-term rental housing. "Some of these people don't make much money," Hannel said, citing an acquaintance who worked at a corner grocery store and was evicted so her landlord could turn her apartment into an Airbnb rental. "How are you going to find another place in the neighborhood?"



"Diana" and "Tommy" rode up on their bikes, wearing "Just Say No to Airbnb" T-shirts. Diana has a local business in the French Quarter, and says business is down since short-term rentals went in on her block. Since then, she said, she's had "bachelor parties peeing on the front door" of her business. "It's disrespectful to local businesses and the city," she said.

"They're not here to spend money," Tommy added. "They're here to save money."

click to enlarge "Diana" and "Tommy," who didn't give their last names, said the presence of short-term renters hasn't resulted in the visitors spending money in local businesses.
  • "Diana" and "Tommy," who didn't give their last names, said the presence of short-term renters hasn't resulted in the visitors spending money in local businesses.

Pro-short-term rental forces (none of whom were visible at the parade) have argued that allowing short-term rentals has many upsides, including a more "authentic" visitor experience and allowing homeowners to ameliorate the ever-rising cost of living in New Orleans. As the vote has drawn nearer, that campaign has included television commercials and media pitches from the Washington D.C.-based PR company Hamilton Place Solutions, which has offered interviews with New Orleans locals who are happy with short-term rentals.
  
In recent days, The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com has reported that both Landrieu's aunt (and former Orleans Parish School Board member) Phyllis Landrieu and his brother Mark Landrieu have operated short-term rentals, as has New Orleans Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell, father-in-law of District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell — all in violation of the law. 

The vote still is scheduled before the Council on Thursday, but the Council has until Oct. 20 to vote. But if the vote is deferred again, the legislation is dead — and the matter could be left for the next administration. 

One of the parade attendees was a University of New Orleans student who said she was writing her sociology thesis on the impact of short-term rental services like Airbnb. She didn't want her name to be used, but said one of the apartments in her Faubourg Marigny building had been turned into a short-term rental. The problems, she said, included dogs on the premises (which were against the lease) and a situation with strangers shooting fireworks out the window. For her, misbehaving short-term renters had the potential to be a drain on already-strapped social services.

"New Orleanians don't want to call the police for every little thing they [short-term renters] are doing," she said. "Police in this town have enough to do."

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