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Airbnb Debate is Reaching a Fever Pitch in NOLA

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Rancor over Airbnb in New Orleans — typical for when the app/service of the moment comes to town — has existed since the service debuted here. But unlike with Uber, which most New Orleanians supported but faced opposition from the city and local cab drivers, the most vocal critics of Airbnb are residents, and it seems lately the outcry has reached a fever pitch. A Bywater resident's porch art satirizing what she saw as Airbnb's taking over the neighborhood, turning her formerly quiet street into an endless parade of brunchers and bachelorette parties and cutting into the pool of affordable housing, seemed to galvanize people on both sides of the issue. Now, Airbnb once again has the attention of city lawmakers, and another local artist is preparing a response to what some see is a widespread problem.

Last week an attempt to enforce a ban on Airbnb-style rentals was removed from the docket after a lawsuit was filed, effectively shelving the case indefinitely. Councilwoman Stacy Head is working on an effort to legalize some of these short-term rentals; however, Councilwoman Susan Guidry says she is "frustrated" that the city is going easy on Airbnb hosts.

Meanwhile, New Orleans residents are speaking out. There's Caroline Thomas, the Bywater porch artist; there's this blog post from a French Quarter resident, calling Airbnbs a "different kind of blight"; there's people outing Airbnb hosts in their neighborhoods. Photographer Aubrey Edwards, known for her photos of New Orleans bounce artists, has put out a call on Facebook for those "negatively affected by Airbnb" to participate in a portrait and interview series.

Recently Los Angeles lawmakers proposed new regulations that would crack down on Airbnbs, citing how the service is "eliminating rental housing and threatening the character of our neighborhoods," which resembles the cry of many New Orleans residents vocal about Airbnb. Echoing the our-hands-are-tied response of many city officials in New Orleans, the problem that officials in L.A. are having is that short-term rentals are already illegal in most parts of L.A., but it's very hard to enforce a crack-down of Airbnbs since the listings don't include addresses.

Is this rancor signaling of changes to come, or is Airbnb here to stay in New Orleans, where hotel occupancy rates are high and visitors crave the kind of "authentic" taste of the city that Airbnb offers? Either way, it seems like New Orleanians on both sides will be fighting to the very end.

· Uber's bumpy start in New Orleans [Gambit]
· Porch Art Skewers Airbnb-ification of Bywater [Curbed NOLA]
· Lawsuit kills rare prosecution of Airbnb-style rentals in New Orleans [NOLA.com]
· Councilwoman Susan Guidry wants New Orleans to 'more aggressively' enforce short-term rental ban [NOLA.com]
· AirBnB: Short Term Rentals, A Different Kind of Blight [New Orleans Slate]
· Victor Pizarro [Facebook]
· Aubrey Edwards [Facebook]
· L.A. proposal would block Airbnb hosts from creating 'rogue hotels' [L.A. Times]
· New Orleans hotel tax revenue soars, raising collection questions [NOLA.com]