Friday, May 13, 2016

Short Term Rentals

To be sure, short term (housing) rentals (STRs) are an issue; proponents on both sides debate and argue, with logic and intelligence, for and against as well as those who complain: “I have more important things to think about—leave me in peace”
            STR is a way for people to make a little extra money while providing a service to visitors that want an opportunity to experience our city the way that a local does.
            Or; STR is a business that takes rental space out of commerce while paying no taxes on the income that is made and essentially depriving legitimate hospitality businesses from making an honest living.
            Or----- During special events, hotels and B&Bs charge exorbitant amounts of money, do not offer home-like amenities and generally are not as personable as a resident providing the same if not better living conditions for less money.
But: there are people that rent housing, buy property or own spaces that cater only to STR visitors who take away the flavor of our city by turning neighborhoods into stretches of STRs.
And--- then there’s the “I don’t give a flip about your local politics and concerns; me and my buddies (bachelorette group, family reunion, romantic getaway) just want to kick back, relax and have a good time. Should I care about legal or illegal? The guy’s renting the space, we want space, resolve your differences and stop making me the bad guy! I’m paying good money to be here! Deal with it!”
`           Truth be told, all this centers, rightly (or wrongly) around an organization named AIRBNB. Truth be told: there are at least a dozen other companies and communications that foster STRs (20,000+ reservations over Jazz Fest). Is it good for the economy? Yes and no. Visitors that experience’ life as a local’ still spend money and on a shop-small level they help independent businesspeople; they go to local restaurants and grocery stores, they frequent off the beaten path clubs and watering holes, they hang in our parks and on our porches. In short, they get the low down on the slowdown of our way of life from locals and avoid ‘tourist traps’. However, our service industry (28,000+) suffers when the ‘captive audience’ isn’t spending money on parking, room service, cookie cutter eating places and attractions aimed at “once in a blue moon” visitor.
            To be fair: the average STR guest doesn’t want to be held captive as a tourist; they want to have a holiday and immerse themselves in our culture, music, food and funk. Period. On the other hand, landlords that take housing out of commerce; creating timeshares; evicting tenants; have multiple houses set up as STRs or even locals that rent multiple spaces and ‘flip’ them for (untaxed) income are, in fact, giving STRs a bad name and some even opine that they are the scum of the earth. (And yes, there are these people living amongst us.)
            Consider that there are over 7,000 pieces of living places or living spaces available to the short term renter, 72% of which are entire residences (houses, apartments) as of this writing.  The majority of people renting those spaces do not live in them and in some cases don’t even live in this city.
            The result is that, as those spaces are taken out of commerce, other available spaces become more expensive to rent and harder to find—STRs have become a business that pushes people out of their homes and creates streets of strangers instead of neighbors. Fact is, at any given time someone from somewhere else can rent a couch to a castle in New Orleans, on a short term basis, while you and your constituents are finding it harder and harder to find places to live in or that you could afford to move into here. It’s also a fact that in many cases, existing rents are being raised out of the reach of long time residents to keep up with supply and demand.
            The original idea of AIRBNB was to rent a space in your house to a person or persons that wanted to be your friend and guest. We’ve lost that to greed and that is not good.
            I’m not sure how to opinionate on this complex subject and certainly no one is asking for my opinion and/or possible options and alternatives; however, when we have an equation that has homelessness on one side and a housing shortage on the other, it would question a thinking and caring person’s logic of ignoring the possibility of the relevance of that correlation to STRs. 

            Meanwhile, while neighbors differ with neighbors and attitudes escalate,and visitors start feeling alienated, our city officials appear complacent and nothing gets resolved. Ask opinions on the street and the word is that, in fact, the mayor himself wants the proliferation of STRs; I don’t know. Emails to AIRBNB have gone unanswered; City Hall doesn’t answer either. The best that I can tell you is to be aware that this is a real issue and concern to be examined and acted upon. One that is not about to go away.

Friday, May 6, 2016

writer's picks 2016

Writers Picks 2016 Phil LaMancusa
Most Puzzling Pork: Okay, we know that crossing town in any direction results in delay, frustrations and confusion; it seems like the city that care forgot wants you to forget why you’re out in traffic in the first place. Case in point: there are streetcar tracks that have been being laid for it seems like a year now starting at Canal and Rampart Streets; I’m sorry, it should never take this long to get a streetcar laid. Is it for locals who already have three buses on that route? Is it for visitors who are chaffing at the bit to tour St. Claude Avenue, perhaps to visit picturesque Elysian Fields Avenue? Or is it as we have been calling it: the laying of the tracks for The Streetcar Named To Nowhere? Will we ever know?
Best Food Tour: Destination Kitchen Tours offers a three hour walking/food tour in the French Quarter for groups of folks hungry for the tastes and tales of what makes this city a culinary paradise; your guide will walk you, talk you and get you tastes of local mainstays such as Muffulettas, gumbo, pralines, poboys and Pimms cups (and more!) the perfect opportunity to show out of towners and locals what’s gastronomically served and savored. Starting at the corner of Toulouse and Royal Streets with coffee and confections and finishing with gelato and macaroons with a side offerings of history, legend and lore. Unlike many tour groups that you witness crowding the streets of our city, these tours are kept small and personal; larger groups are generally broken up or have multiple guides. Destination Kitchen also does history, cocktail and Garden District forays.  Contact

Best Kids Coral: Want to take the little dears to a place where they can run amok safely and work off their steam at the same time as expanding their intelligence? The Louisiana Children’s Museum at 420 Julia St. is the place for you. Recommended for kids zero to eight years old, there is more stuff to do here than a lot. Art, stories, talk and play centers, capes and masks, history and interactive play centers ranging from make-believe grocery store to cafĂ© and optometrist. Educational, enlightening and engaging; there are three floors of activities and areas laid out to amaze and amuse. AND MORE!! There are healthy snacks available from vending machines and all you have to do as an adult is to keep up with the energetic mini-bipeds. Set them free, why doncha Babe? Summer hours: Mon-Sat 9:30-5:00 Sunday 12:30-5:00, also available for field trips and birthday parties. 504-523-1357