Amid a packed schedule of campaign events in the final stretch before the Nov. 18 runoff election, the two remaining candidates for the open District B seat on the New Orleans City Council met Tuesday night to sharpen distinctions between their positions on AirBnB laws, housing policy and job creation.
Jay H. Banks and Seth Bloom answered policy questions Tuesday night posed by the Power Coalition, a nonprofit organized around increasing voter participation in elections, in a runoff forum at the New Orleans Jazz Market. The first question — and perhaps the question that drew the sharpest policy distinction between the candidates — focused on short-term rentals and their impact on housing affordability in the city.
Banks said he opposes the current legal structure allowing short-term rentals of whole homes in residential neighborhoods, calling them “mini hotels.” While he does support allowing individuals to rent out portions of their homes on a short-term basis for extra money, Banks said he believes those permits should only be given to those homeowners who live at the address full time and prove it with a homestead exemption.
“Short-term rentals are devastating affordable housing,” Banks said. “Short-term rentals ought to be tied to homestead exemptions. I don’t think absentee landlords should have the ability to create hotels in neighborhoods.”
Bloom agreed that short-term rentals “erode the authenticity of our neighborhoods,” and said he supports strong regulation and enforcement of them. On the homestead exemption issue, however, Bloom said he is not yet convinced it is the appropriate next step, though he said he is still researching the question.
“I don’t believe in raising taxes on a lot of things, but permitting, taxing and regulating short-term rentals I believe is so important,” Bloom said. “I’m not convinced yet to tie the homestead exemption directly to having a permit, but I’m malleable. I’ll listen.”
Moderator Deidre Johnson-Burel also asked the candidates about increasing homeownership, and increasing middle-income jobs for residents. Banks emphasized vocational training to prepare workers for jobs, while Bloom described partnering with the hospitality industry and other public-private partnerships.
With 10 days left before the election, the candidates have a full schedule of events. Today, (Wednesday, Nov. 8) Banks is hosting a fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. at Cafe Reconcile, 1631 Oretha Castle Haley in Central City, and Bloom is participating in a meet-and-greet at 5:30 p.m. with the Forum For Equality at Bayou Wine Garden, 315 North Rendon in Mid-City.