The New Orleans City Planning Commission on Tuesday approved the language for a much stricter regulatory regime for short term rentals. The amendments now go to the City Council for a final decision.

The recommendations from the commission were more restrictive than the ones proposed by Councilwoman Kristin Palmer late last year. Like Palmer’s version, whole-home rentals in residential neighborhoods would be limited to homeowners with homestead exemptions. But while Palmer’s proposal allows those homeowners to rent up to three whole units on their property in any residential district, the commission’s staff recommendations only allow for one in most residential neighborhoods.

In some multifamily residential neighborhoods, the planners’ report calls for a “large residential” permits that would allow three short-term rentals per lot, provided the owner also lives onsite.

Planning commissioners only went against their staff report on one item. The report recommended an end to the current ban on short term rentals in the French Quarter. But the commissioners disagreed. They did, however, agree with the staff report that the ban should not be extended into the Garden District.

Tuesday’s vote was another step in the City Council’s pursuit to curb the proliferation of short term rentals, a pursuit that started in May 2018, shortly after the current council was sworn into office.

In January, The Council passed a resolution outlining new short term rental regulations and instructing the City Planning Commission to write the appropriate regulatory language to match. The proposal was based on recommendations in the Commission’s 2018 short term rental study, but it scaled back some of the suggested restrictions.

The proposals advanced by the commission on Tuesday, however, bring the regulations closer to the more restrictive version originally recommended by the City Planning Commission. The commission’s vote on Tuesday is only a recommendation. The City Council will ultimately decide what to codify in city zoning law.

The City Council’s proposal from January would have allowed people to operate short term rentals in residential neighborhoods only if they own and live on the property. They would have to be on-site while they were hosting guests and they would be allowed rent up to three units on a property with a maximum of 18 guests. This would allow the owner of a fourplex, for example, to live in one unit and rent out the other three.

The City Planning Commission report found that to be too permissive. It said that a property with three rental units with up to 18 total guests has the same effect on a neighborhood as a bed and breakfast, and should be regulated the same way.

Their proposal has three types of residential properties, all of which, like the council version, would require a homestead exemption and the owner to be on-site during their guests’ stays.

First, a “partial-unit” residential license would allow owners to rent out spare bedrooms in the home they live in. Second, property owners could use a “small” residential permit to rent out one unit on their property. This allows owners of a double shotgun to rent out one half.

The third is a “large” residential permit. This would allow property owners to rent up to three units on their property, similar to the Council proposal. Except unlike that proposal, these licenses would be limited to multi-family residential, mixed-use, and commercial districts.

For commercial licenses, the Council proposal would create four categories. The City Planning Commission reduced that to just one. These commercial licenses would not require a homestead exemption, but they would be limited to places that, based on the property’s zoning, could be used as a hotel. And except for certain parts of Bourbon Street and Canal Street— where some new developments include a large number of short-term rentals as part of their business plans — those buildings could only use 25 percent of their units as short term rentals.

The commission’s staff report said that commercial short-term rentals could be used to bolster affordable housing goals, but that further study is needed. The general ideas, which the Council members have endorsed in the past, include allowing commercial property owners to exceed the 25 percent cap in exchange for more affordable units.

Michael Isaac Stein

Michael Isaac Stein covers New Orleans' cultural economy and local government for The Lens. Before joining the staff, he freelanced for The Lens as well as The Intercept, CityLab, The New Republic, and...