Letters: Short-term rentals can help blight

2018-12-13 | The New Orleans Advocate

Access to housing and quality of life impact so many residents throughout the country every day. From vacancy and abandonment, access to healthy food, and well maintained recreational opportunities, a city's investment in its neighborhoods is a key driver in the health and vitality of the community. I began my career in neighborhood revitalization in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, where residents, government, and the private sector worked together to develop long-term visions for reinvesting in safer, stronger, more vibrant communities. This approach in leveraging the strengths of different sectors to achieve greater outcomes is the approach I brought to work every day when I served New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu as the city's first blight czar, led the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and served as the deputy mayor and CAO during my tenure at City Hall.

While I am proud of the work our team accomplished in the dramatic reduction in blight - taking us from the most blighted city in America to no longer in the top 10 - and the residential and commercial redevelopment that has taken place across our city, there is still a tremendous amount of work and great opportunity we have ahead of us.

In recent weeks, local developers partnered with a commercial short-term rental operator to announce plans for revitalizing three blighted structures on Canal Street, commencing $50 million in construction projects. This is addressing one of the city's most challenging issues regarding commercial revitalization - reactivating long-vacant upper floors in important historic commercial buildings. Occupied upper floors of Canal Street could potentially attract a greater mix of retail options on our city's grand boulevard, and drive other economic benefits.

As city leaders grapple with how to continue to reduce blight in the city of New Orleans, they should consider every viable means at their disposal, including short-term rentals.

Redevelopment is complex, nuanced and always a challenge. Flexibility is critical when attempting to tackle blight and revitalize abandoned structures, and one-size-fits-all rules and arbitrary caps can hinder progress. By continuing to keep all tools in the toolbox we can work to tackle commercial blight in even more creative and effective ways, and leave a legacy to be proud of for future generations.

Jeff Hebert

nonprofit executive

New Orleans