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Demand for short-term rentals in New Orleans drying up during pandemic

"For the people that this is their home and their income, this is going to have devastating effect."

NEW ORLEANS — Many operators of short-term rentals in New Orleans are seeing a dramatic drop in bookings during the pandemic. 

Before COVID-19, Susan Korec rented half her home in the Bywater to tourists and visitors. She loved hosting. Her guest books go back 11 years.

“They draw us pictures, they write us poems. They love the neighborhood experience, they love being part of the neighborhood,” Korec said.

For Korec, her short-term rental provided another stream of income.

“We live on social security, I’m semi-retired. I do decorating and faux finishes, and that is something that’s not happening right now,” Korec said.

Her last guest was back in early March. Since then, she’s had no bookings and those in the real estate industry say it’s anybody’s guess as to when that may turn around.

“So that’s become a real problem especially for the host that purchased properties as a function for paying for their mortgage. If they purchased a double they’re going to owner-occupy one side and Airbnb the other,” Angie Lutrick said.

Lutrick is an agent with Entablature Realty. She says one of her clients is now trying to sell her short-term rental.

“She’s able to keep her home, she’s got another Airbnb through that home, but for the people that this is their home and their income, this is going to have devastating effect,” Lutrick said.

Short-term rentals have been polarizing in this city. People like Korec say short-term rentals have helped with the bills, but then you have big developers in the same market. 

For people against short-term rentals, large multi-unit complexes like the one at Burgundy and Piety streets in the Bywater represent everything wrong about the concept. That property was taken over by an outside company then redeveloped for visitors. 

Opponents say such developments take away housing opportunities for locals. That particular building is now for sale at $2.6 million. It’s a possible indicator of a weakening short-term rental industry.

“If we don’t have the tourism, if we don’t have the people to sustain these large developments it’s going to become problematic,” Lutrick said.

At the height of the short-term rental boom, the city issued more than 4,000 short-term rental permits. After stiffer regulations, and now during a pandemic, there are roughly 1,800 active permits. Love them or hate them short-term rentals once represented a strong tourist economy. Now, they represent what the city is missing.