Spanish Town homeowners fear Airbnb could change historic neighborhood
BATON ROUGE - It's not just flamingos that are flocking to the city's oldest neighborhood. Homeowners in Spanish Town have been finding more houses being turned into Airbnb's. Unlike the pink birds, many don't want to see the short term renters.
“When you have a lot of other people come in and stay overnight, that really interferes with the daily life of the most of the residents,” said Cheryl McCormick.
McCormick has lived in the historical neighborhood for nearly 20 years.
“We wanted to come to Spanish Town and be in a neighborhood where you can walk around in,” she said.
It was the charm that pulled her in. The unique architecture, proud pink flamingos and beads that stay long after the namesake parade, and the friendly neighbors.
“We have front porches and we know how to use them,” said McCormick.
That is, the neighbors that stay long enough to get to know. McCormick says more and more houses are being turned into short-term rentals. She understands why, but is concerned. Parking is already limited in the neighborhood and there’s the fear renters won't keep up the areas integrity.
"For it to be a tourist destination is not necessarily the future we have in mind for this historic district,” said McCormick.
Councilwoman Tara Wicker is just hearing these concerns. She’s looking to see if any regulations need to be put in place.
“The idea is to get in front of the issue if there is going to be an issue,” said Wicker.
In New Orleans short term rentals are banned in the French Quarter. It could also be banned in the Garden District pending a Planning Commission vote on the proposal that will happen later this year.
"We can look at what they've done and apply it here if it fits here in Baton Rouge,” said Wicker.
Nothing is set in stone. The discussion is just beginning.
“There is a place for [Airbnb] in our modern society, we understand that. We think it needs to be controlled and looked at very carefully when it comes to a neighborhood like this,” said McCormick.
An Airbnb spokesperson says Airbnb provides an affordable way for people to visit Baton Rouge, releasing the following statement:
"Airbnb helps Baton Rouge families earn meaningful extra income to help make ends meet, save for retirement and pay for home repairs, while bringing visitor spending to neighborhoods that haven't typically benefited from tourism. We are committed to working with the City of Baton Rouge, like we've worked with hundreds of governments around the world, on fair rules that allow our hosts and the city to receive the full economic benefits of short-term rentals, while protecting neighborhood character."