A brilliant speech to a New Orleans City Council hearing on AirBnB and short term rentals in general. As Best of New Orleans reported:
Comedian and actor Harry Shearer was among the opponents speaking against short-term rentals, calling its proponents and rental owners speaking in the first half of the meeting “a parade of happy scofflaws.”
“What other business can I start in the privacy of my home?” he joked. “A large animal veterinary practice? … Are all residential neighborhoods commercial strips waiting to be disrupted?”
Shearer has involved himself in politics before and has a good sense of cities. You may remember he also made a documentary on New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina called “The Big Uneasy.”
I’ve written out the full transcript of his speech below (after the video). This topic interests me because AirBnB is significantly contributing to the Vancouver housing crisis. In a city where we already have disastrous scarcity of affordable housing, and where property speculation and an influx of global cash have been permitted (even encouraged) which has driven up rents and property values, it is now more lucrative for landlords to run AirBnBs than rent to long-term tenants. Almost all remaining rental housing is unaffordable and the vacancy rate is nonexistent. Half my friends have left town. As a result many of us are reaching zero tolerance for AirBnB and all other predatory influences on affordable rental stock. And that’s quite apart from the issue of AirBnB guests disrupting my block and my whole neighbourhood, with their 2 am arrivals and yelling up and down the street and blocking alleys with cars and so on.
Congratulations to New Orleans City Council for outlawing STRs. Vancouver City Council must follow suit, though they are already making noises that suggest they won’t. We wish we had a Harry Shearer here.
AirBnB is an aggressive, predatory corporation that fights hard against local regulation, hiring locals close to political processes to make sure they are represented at City Halls (as they have just done in Canada). There will be lots of happy scofflaws and libertarian types who argue against any regulation. And perhaps STRs are less damaging in areas that don’t have a hot real estate market; but increasingly, real estate markets are generally hot, since there’s nowhere else for the 1% to put its money. Regardless there are many municipalities where AirBnB should not be allowed at all. As I said, in Vancouver STR is completely out of control. With zero vacancy, we see AirBnB listings in condo buildings that are not yet completed.
“First I want to say what a thrill it is to hear a parade of happy scofflaws. It’s inspiring.
I want to pass along some facts, at least as reported by the New York Times, of what’s happening in other cities. 55% of New York City AirBnB listings are illegal. In San Francisco after AirBnB helped craft an ordinance, which it was amenable to, the number of people who have been required as AirBnB hosts to register with the City is only 20%, that is to say that 80% remain as happy scofflaws.
AirBnB—and I’m speaking specifically in opposition to whole house sharing; I neglected to mention I live on Dauphine Street in the French Quarter and we have at least one party house on our block. It is a whole house AirBnB rental—I propose the notion that AirBnB’s business model is rampant short termism. They are sharing what they don’t own, which is a neighbourhood. And as more and more neighbours in my part of the French Quarter are leaving and being replaced by LLCs which are in the business of renting out short term, they’re destroying the very neighbourhood that they’re selling to visitors as an opportunity to visit. That’s not a long term business model.
I’m wondering what other business I can start in the privacy of my home. If these people can be part of an industry in a residential neighbourhood, can I for example open a large animal veterinary practice in my house without a license? I’d look forward to that.
And I’d ask one more question: are all residential neighborhoods just commercial strips waiting to be disrupted?