Anti-Airbnb rally ahead of City Council’s short-term rental regulations vote

New Orleans (WGNO) - The short-term rental debate rages on. Tuesday, a political theater protest was held here on the steps of City Hall in New Orleans, including floats, props, local actors and artists.

During the production, organizers made a presentation against short-term whole-home rentals, which they say is greatly damaging to New Orleans neighborhoods.

"I think the commercials and ad campaign that Airbnb is trying to portray is making it seem like a very black and white issue. That we're either going to allow Airbnb or we're not going to allow Airbnb. What we're saying is there is a nice middle ground, where you can protect your neighborhoods and protect your residence -- and still allow people the opportunity to share their home," said Rally Organizer Devin DeWulf.

But the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity President Eric Bay says the City Planning Comission's current proposal would ban 75 percent of the current listings altogether.

"For more than 20 years, short-term rentals have boosted our local and state economy, now supporting more than 8,000 jobs in our city and creating a lasting positive impact on the finances of our homeowners and small business people," said Bay. "Whole-home rentals enhance the vibrancy of New Orleans by helping people restore blighted properties, pay their mortgages, save for retirement, and grow their small businesses."

But while Bay argues the short-term rentals will be good for business, DeWulf says that it will affect rents, real estate and culture in our city.

"Most of the houses that are for rent in my neighborhood are whole home rentals, and supply and demand. Every house that becomes a whole home rental is one house that's not available for a resident of New Orleans and that is something that is raising the prices for all the rentals and raising the prices for all the homes. So, homes that sold a couple years ago for $50,000 or $75,000 are now being sold for $200,000, $300,000 and it's making the city very unaffordable," said DeWulf. "Your teachers, cooks, musicians, artists are going to be priced out and we're going to lose our character as a city. Also, we are going to lose our social fabric. You know your neighbor and it's great to know the person across the street and next door, and you look out for each other. Some of the blocks that have been taken over by the whole home rentals, people have lost that. And if we lose the people here we are just going to be like every other city we might have different architecture but where's our music going to come from? where's our good food going to come from? where's our creativity? mardi gras? costumes? All that stuff that we are taking for granted is going to be lost if people are priced out."

But Bay says the culture will be preserved and, if anything, celebrated by the tourists visiting.

"Artistic performances like this are exactly what draw millions of visitors to New Orleans each year – precisely the types of travelers we are proud to welcome to our short-term rentals. Short-term rentals provide visitors an affordable opportunity to see our wonderful city, from our vibrant street performers and artists, to our historic sites and monuments," said Bay. "It’s time the city came together for smart, pro-growth policies that address the concerns of neighbors and welcome whole-home vacation rentals to all parts of the city."

This event comes after Airbnb released commercials locally promoting their efforts:

The City Council has a crucial vote on short-term rental regulations next week on October 6th, a proposal from the City Planning Commission that opponents support and proponents oppose.