Baton Rouge’s debate over short-term rentals is fraught with controversy  

    When Babs and Tommy Talley moved back to Baton Rouge from Los Angeles in 2009, they bought a small house in Hundred Oaks with a 1,000-square-foot apartment in the rear that they decided to offer as a short-term rental on Airbnb. 

    Two years later, the Talleys sold the house and moved to a bigger place in Old Goodwood, this one with a pool house that they, again, rented out on Airbnb. They branched out and bought two more houses as investment properties—one downtown, the other in Mid City. They renovated them and offered them as short-term rentals. 

    Today, they own three houses with a total of seven rental units that, together, generated nearly $150,000 in rental income last year, roughly 40% more, by their estimates, than they would as long-term rental units.

    The Talleys represent one perspective on an increasingly rancorous debate that is playing out in Baton Rouge, as it is around the country, over short-term rentals and how they should be regulated. Like ridesharing apps did with taxis and e-retail with brick-and-mortar stores, platforms that enable short-term rentals—of which Airbnb is the most dominant—have upended the traditional lodging market by giving travelers an alternative to hotels that in many respects is more preferable. 

    But with the rise of short-term rentals have come a host of criticisms, rooted in legitimate problems. Among them: Short-term rentals rob neighborhoods of their local character and drive up property values, reducing the already limited supply of affordable housing. In some neighborhoods—like Spanish Town, where the local debate on the issue is focused at the moment—they also create parking challenges on streets that have insufficient residential parking to begin with.

    At the moment in Baton Rouge, Metro Council member Tara Wicker, who represents Spanish Town and the broader downtown area, where many of the city’s short-term rental units are located, is working on legislation to address some of the issues that have been raised in recent months. 

    But the process is already fraught with controversy and riven by factions. Read on for the full Business Report cover story, which dives into the issues with the legislation. 

     

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