A Whole Community is a Healthy Community: Lessons Learned From Open Neighborhood Engagement Meetings

Throughout August, the New Orleans short-term rental industry held open community meetings with neighbors, housing advocates, rental managers, HomeAway representatives, city staff, and small business leaders in neighborhoods across the city. Hosted by the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity (ANP) and local vacation rental owners, these meetings sought to engage neighbors on what fair and effective regulations could look like. During these meetings, constructive dialogue brought real change to the Whole-Home, Whole Community policy roadmap recently released by HomeAway.

Community members come out to Uptown neighborhood meeting on short-term rentals. August 23rd, 2018

At the beginning of August, we invited over 11,000 residents, 140 business owners, 43 neighborhood associations and countless others through the City’s Nextdoor platform to hear what questions and concerns were most pressing to them. Through over 10 hours of open discussion, these sessions provided an opportunity for neighbors and industry stakeholders to collaborate on creative policy solutions. Through this process we hosted over 250 individuals and collected surveys and comment cards in addition to the robust discussion that occurred.

These meetings were called to not only ensure that the opportunity was provided for every voice to be heard and every concern to be addressed in a responsible setting, but also to gain community input on the Whole-Home, Whole Community policy solutions themselves. Because this is such a hyperlocal and complex policy issue, we envisioned this policy roadmap evolving over the course of the short-term rental conversation in New Orleans based on the city’s unique challenges. When homeowners in Uptown suggested additional STR units be tied to additional affordable housing units, we tailored our solutions to enhance those options. At our meeting in Algiers community members stated their primary concern was poor enforcement of existing regulations, and we changed the Whole-Home, Whole Community policy proposal to increase permitting fees in order to increase funding for the City’s enforcement efforts.

On August 21st, HomeAway and its New Orleans partners hosted their first community meeting with a packed house in Treme.

Another great example of how listening to the community directly impacts HomeAway’s policy proposals is around the critical issue of affordable housing. For decades, New Orleans has been dealing with a lack of affordable housing for many of its residents. While we do not believe STRs are the cause of the City’s housing challenges, we heard from STR homeowners and managers that supporting their neighbors who are most in need is essential for the community to thrive. At their suggestion, HomeAway is supporting of raising the current $1 per night fee to a 2% fee for the City’s Neighborhood Housing Improvement fund.

While it’s clear that vacation rentals are a misunderstood and contentious issue in New Orleans, it is encouraging to hear constructive dialogue and real common ground being found. When you bring together a passionate community comprised of a diverse cross section of residents who genuinely want to improve the City we all love, we believe it’s possible to create lasting solutions that benefit every neighborhood and every block.

Carley S., Algiers Meeting Co-Host

Felicia W., Uptown Meeting Co-Host

Janice B., Bywater/Marigny Meeting Co-Host

Penelope R., Treme Meeting Co-Host

Eric Bay, President, Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity (ANP)

Ashley Hodgini, New Orleans Policy Manager, HomeAway