Tensions over Airbnb heightened during Jazz Fest

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - The sign reads: "Dear Tourist, welcome to NOLA." But if you keep reading, the message quickly changes.

That's because Airbnb, a website for people to list, find and rent housing, has become even more controversial this Jazz Fest.

"It's not welcoming, but I think it will make you think twice before you book with Airbnb again," said New Orleans resident Kelsie Rhodes.

Airbnb says nearly 20,000 visitors are using the site to make arrangements specifically for the two-weekend music festival.

The online hospitality company estimates guests will spend roughly $17 million in revenue in the city of New Orleans alone.

But so far, Airbnb is not regulated and that's just one issue.

"I think it should be regulated from city to city when you have a housing shortage like here and the locals are trying to find a place to live," said Giovanni Bommarito.

Members of the group Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity, a collection of short-term rental owners, are pushing for regulation, asking the New Orleans City Council to draft legislation that would impose a tax on Airbnb rentals and generate funds for the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We're looking to work with opposition groups as well as the city… and really embrace the compliance piece because that's where it's failed in other cities," said Eric Bay with Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity.

As it stands, renting a property for less than 30 days in New Orleans is illegal, but some say enforcement of the law is tenuous at best.

Noise complaints and safety in neighborhoods are other issues.

"I find that it shuffles people through quite constantly. Some folks are less conscious of the fact that they're in a neighborhood," said Jon Housley.

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