The changing face of New Orleans has received tons of media attention in the last year. Like the Denver of the 1980’s, Austin of the 1990’s and Portland of the 2000’s, New Orleans seems to be the ‘it’ city of this decade. There is much good which comes from this new energy with idealistic, hard working 20/30 somethings coming here to make their mark. Those who have lived here for years before it was cool, (when it was dysfunctional and devastated) have a love/hate relationship with these new-comers, and the city’s new status as a hip place to be.
With these new folks comes a revitalization of many neglected areas from apartments, more vegan restaurants, expanded options for poetry slams, and live dance performances(a good thing) as well as an explosion of hamburger restaurants, increased rents and this buzz growing a shared economy (not such a good thing).
New Orleans is a tourist town for better or worse, and while the base of its economy is expanding, tourism to sample our architecture, culture food and music has always been a mainstay of how we make a living. These new arrivals to the city know that too, and have been busy buying up property and renting out one side of their shotgun-style homes and spare bedrooms on sites like AirB&B, HomeAway and VBRO, and making a little bit of extra cash on the side and giving folks an alternative (and what they tout as ‘authentic”) place to stay for less money. All of it sounds great, but in New Orleans, short term rentals are illegal, and alas, there is no lodging police to make sure that rules are enforced.
As innkeepers we do not feel threatened by the growth of these alternatives, as we believe we fill a different niche (and are no less authentic), but there are two elements of this shared economy which give us great pause.
In New Orleans, neither those renting out their accommodations, or the alternative lodging sites charge or pay any type of city tax on their rooms. This does keep their lodging prices low for the guest, but those guests then use the streetcar, walk the sidewalks and expect the police and fire department to be readily accessible. Sadly though, they are not doing their share to pay for those services.
The second, and more troublesome problem is there are neighborhoods in the city (specifically the Bywater and Marigny; our hot hip neighborhoods) which have been so overtaken by short term rentals, that the fabric of those neighborhoods are diminished. The rhythm of seeing your neighbors while walking your dog is replaced by a gaggle of bachelorettes coming for the weekend with little regard for the noise or clamor they make. When whole streets turn into weekend-end getaways, the very uniqueness and close-knit fabric of the neighborhood is reduced to a bohemian resort village.
We want people from around the world to come and visit this fabulous town, we just want them to respect the treasures they find here and in their small way, do their part to ensure those treasures remain. To be honest, we are ready for the next hot city to be discovered, any suggestions?