▸ The gist: Lafayette’s first set of local regulations for short-term rentals was finalized by the City Council earlier this month, starting the clock the first major change to how Airbnbs and the like will be allowed to operate in the city.
▸ Get caught up: It took years to get here and pitted neighbors against each other. This summer’s months-long push by Councilman Andy Naquin saw weeks of contentious discourse as the council ultimately banned STRs in most residential areas and imposed restrictions in others.
▸ Short-term rentals will be banned in Residential Single-Family (RS) zoning districts, which account for 75% of the city’s residential area, effective Oct. 6, 2024. The RS ban was a key point of contention as the city’s new rules were debated this summer, but the council ultimately approved the provision in a 4-1 vote on Oct. 3.
▸ There’s no exception for those existing STRs under the new RS ban, which Lafayette Tourism and Lodging Association founder Mike Bass says was a missed opportunity to accommodate owners who have invested in their rental properties.
“What I would have liked to have seen was conditional permits in RS (zones), and grandfather in everyone as far as getting their permit. But then all the other rules apply.”
▸ About 39% of Lafayette STRs are in RS zones, according to The Current’s July analysis of listings published by AirDNA.co, an STR industry research site that draws from Airbnb, VRBO and similar services. That’s about 150 operations, mostly in neighborhoods around downtown, now facing a 12-month deadline to get out of the STR business. A map of zoning districts is available on LCG’s website.
The prevalence of existing STRs in single-family neighborhoods was part of the impetus for the RS ban, says Naquin, whose district covers the Saints Streets and Oaklawn neighborhoods where the loudest opponents of STRs live.
“To think that this is going to tie every short-term rental owner’s hands is a total misapplication of this ordinance,” says Naquin. “It’s just going to limit where they can have short-term rentals, and the bottom line is these neighborhoods need to be protected.”
▸ Outside RS zones, STRs must get a $100 annual license from Lafayette Consolidated Government by April 1, 2024, to continue operating in the city’s other zoning districts, which generally cover neighborhoods vulnerable to displacement and allow some mix of non-residential uses.
▸ There are some additional requirements that must be met to qualify for the new STR licenses.
- Nextdoor neighbors must get written notice with contact info through the mail before an STR license will be issued under the new rules
- Operators won’t have to get their neighbors’ written consent, which the council considered requiring at one point this summer.
- STRs must also have an agent available 24/7 to respond to incidents and complaints.
▸ Special rules will apply to STRs in Residential Mixed (RM) zones, including:
- No hosting events
- No more than two guests per room, up to eight total guests
- No simultaneously renting separate guest rooms for different bookings
▸ LCG may revoke STR licenses at its discretion, and a one-year ban from reapplying will be levied against any operators whose licenses it revokes.
▸ Enforcement could be a struggle for LCG. Bass says Airbnb will likely require proof of a city license for listings on its platform, presumably making the RS ban easier to implement. But the City Council didn’t identify any new resources to support regulating the 350-400 STRs currently in operation, and Naquin acknowledges that “there’s a possibility that we’ll have hiccups, and that will have to be addressed as we go.”
▸ The new rules are a momentous shift from the largely unregulated way that STRs have operated in Lafayette for more than a decade. With nearly a year remaining for the changes to play out, the new rules may face legal challenges, and their impact on Lafayette’s STR market may be slow to unfold. But for now the changes mark an end to what was at times called the “Wild West” for STRs in Lafayette.