Inclusionary Zoning Short-Term Rental Nightmare in New Orleans

New Orleans     Let’s be clear:  inclusionary zoning is a good thing!  The problem is a bit like fake news though.  What is real inclusionary zoning versus something that just claims to be creating affordable housing, while doing very little past the claim?  This nightmare is unfolding in different versions repeatedly in New Orleans offering warnings and lessons for policy makers around the country.

One problem turns out to be the consultants.  If you hire consultants that have worked for AirBnb to front for the benefits of short-term rentals, you are going to have problems coming up with good regulations.  Or, if you hire consultants for inclusionary zoning that have done namby-pamby studies for other cities, don’t be surprised if you get a lame-ass ordinance which allows a city council to claim they have a policy, while enacting one that does virtually nothing.  All of this is happening in New Orleans

The inclusionary zoning proposal passed in recent months was Swiss cheese.  The number of loopholes was a developer’s dream of inclusionary zoning estimated to yield – are you sitting down – a whole 57 units of affordable housing from new developments per year.

Now the city and so-called consultants are debating how to manage short-rentals in commercial developments rather than residential homes, and it’s shaping up to be not simply contentious, but another policy disaster.  The city council’s initial proposal, according to the Times-Picayune New Orleans Advocate, “would have limited commercial short-term rentals to 25% of any property and would have required owners to provide one unit of affordable housing for every unit that is used as a short-rental.”  That’s not a bad place to start, since a commercial location’s short-term rentals are basically hotels with another name located in neighborhoods.

In the next block from our house a former hot dog factory has been converted into a condo-complex called the Saxony for specious reasons that insult some of the German worker families that once lived in the Bywater.  Currently, 67 of 75 available units are allowed for short-term rental!  Yes, 67 of 75, because the current regulation allows short-term rentals in commercial properties without restrictions.  That’s normally called a hotel with a couple of penthouse condos.  In this nightmare, we could say that any new regulation that limited them by any means would be something of a dawn.

The consultant is recommending that instead for the council’s proposal that they should collect higher fees on the short-term rentals in commercial properties, claiming that would create more affordable housing than the one-to-one ratio.  What refried baloney is that?!?  The city is in no position to develop affordable housing itself, so they would be paying or subsidizing a developer to do so, as opposed to requiring the developer to have to create affordable housing from the “get go” if they want to have short-term rentals.

A lesson that hopefully New Orleans – and other cities – will learn in this short-term rental versus affordable housing developer and consultant scam is simple:  fool me once, it’s on you, fool me twice, it’s on me.  New Orleans needs to not be fooled yet again by developers and their huckster allies.

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Thank Goodness for a Tropical Storm Barry “Nothing Burger”

New Orleans   It was so quiet that it felt like living in the country.  If there had been more stars and fewer houses, I might have thought I was stepping out of my trailer in Wyoming, rather than standing on my porch at 3AM to check on the Tropical Storm Barry.  There was hardly a drizzle.  Hours later walking Lucha at 630 AM, the drops hitting my face weren’t rain, but water that still needed to be brushed off the leaves by the wind.

Mi companera keeps up with Twitter.  She read me a tweet from a New Orleanian calling the storm a “nothing burger.”  If that’s the case, nothing tastes better!

We’re still packed in by the clouds. No one is back.  Nothing is open.  That’s OK, too.  We are still worried about the reports of potentially heavy flooding around Baton Rouge and eastern Louisiana on into western Mississippi, where smaller rivers are still swollen with water. The reports on the giant Mississippi River are all good.  The Bonnet Carre Spillway has been open 108 days already between the city limits and LaPlace, twenty miles upriver, and has diverted 1.2 trillion cubic feet of water into Lake Ponchartrain and Lake Maurpas, hitting the oyster beds badly with so much muddy fresh water, but doing its job of saving the city.  The Coast Guard closed the River to vessel traffic for more than 100 miles.

We ventured out to a food dive called Melba’s at the corner of Elysian Fields and Claiborne which is one of those places that stays open 24-hours a day and doesn’t know the meaning of calorie counts or recycling with everything served “to go” and three entrances, through the back parking lot, through the front door, or through their laundry mat.  The biggest crowd was a gaggle of women who were members of the Delta Sigma Theta who had obviously stayed over despite their convention wrapping up Friday in the wake of the storm.  Almost all of them lined up for the free refill before walking out with their leftovers.  Delta Sigma Theta sorority is a predominantly black organization founded by 22 women in 1913 at Howard University.  The Washington Post reported that they donated their convention’s 17,000 uneaten meals to those affected by the tropical storm Barry in Louisiana.  Second Harvest sent a 50-foot refrigerated truck to hold the meals so that they can be warmed up for flood and storm victims later in the week.  Thanks, sisters!

The Rolling Stones rescheduled their concert for Monday night.  Our son had been marooned at his sister’s place in Brooklyn after having the last leg of his flight home from Turkey and Bulgaria cancelled in New York.  We rebooked our flights to Europe for meetings with ACORN organizers for Monday as well.  Flight trackers are now showing more flights departing from New Orleans than cancellations.  The mayor is taking heat for not passing out sandbags because they clog the draining system, but she made the right move.

We’ll reopen our coffeehouses tomorrow, and things will gradually get back to normal.  Newspapers will be delivered perhaps.  Our offices and others will be open.

Maybe we’ll learn something, maybe we won’t.  Too many will confuse the fact that we were lucky with whether we were good.

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