Austin City Council votes to phase out some short-term rentals


After months of debate that culminated Tuesday in a march of HomeAway advocates on Austin City Hall, a divided City Council revamped its rules on short-term rentals to phase out a certain kind of units from neighborhoods by 2022.

The provision applies to Type 2 units, which are owned by someone who doesn’t live on site and are leased for less than 30 days at a time to guests throughout the year — giving rise to what some residents have described as “party houses” in the heart of neighborhoods. Austin has 434 such units licensed throughout the city, though it is unclear how many exist in commercial areas where they would be allowed to remain.

“It’s been a long road,” said Palmer Quaroni, who lives next door to a short-term rental in District 10, where some of the complaints about party houses originated last summer. “When we bought our house, we never knew we’d be moving in next to a hotel.”

But the decision disappointed the owners and supporters of short-term rental properties, who say the problems have been limited to a few bad actors. They said the city should focus on addressing those violators, not banning Type 2 units from all neighborhoods.

“We feel that the enforcement laws they have, they need to give it time to work and go after the bad actors that aren’t paying their taxes and having big parties,” said Dennis Artale, who said he has obeyed city laws and paid taxes while operating two Type 2 properties for four years.

Austin-based vacation rental company HomeAway, which provides listings for such rental properties, hoped to head off the change with a program announced last week that included a complaint hotline and the ability for the company to remove listings for problem properties.

On Tuesday, Mayor Steve Adler offered a last-ditch amendment that would have postponed a decision on the fate of Type 2 properties until the current moratorium on new units ends in April 2017. But that measure failed on a 6-5 vote, with Council Members Ora Houston, Delia Garza, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, Greg Casar, Leslie Pool and Kathie Tovo voting to keep the phase-out provision.

Tovo argued that allowing short-term rentals in neighborhoods added to the pressures that drive up Austin housing costs and push out families with children.

Short-term rentals “allow valuable housing stock to be converted into mini hotels,” Tovo said.

Austin also has more than 700 licensed “Type 1” properties, in which the owners live on the same site as the rental unit. Type 1 units are still allowed in residential areas, but other regulations passed Tuesday will apply to both kinds of properties, including the provisions to ban advertising without a license and restrict occupancy to a maximum of 10 people.

The overall ordinance, approved by a final 9-2 vote, also gives code officials the ability to inspect problem properties, levy fines, issue citations and revoke licenses. Council Members Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair voted against the entire package.

“This whole short-term rental issue came up because we had public disturbance ordinances that were not being enforced,” said Zimmerman, calling for better enforcement of existing rules instead of new restrictions.

Because the council heard public testimony at previous sessions, none was taken Tuesday. However, supporters and opponents filled the Council Chambers, and more than 100 employees from HomeAway showed their opposition by marching from their Fifth Street office to City Hall.

“We want to make sure the owners and managers know we’re supporting them,” HomeAway spokesman Adam Annen said.

To step up enforcement, the city’s Code Department added staff last year to its short-term rental team, sending staffers out on weekends to inspect properties. Inspectors also recently started monitoring Internet sites for advertisements from unlicensed properties, sending notices and starting administrative hearings. According to a memo from the city’s code compliance director, Carl Smart, the team responded to nearly 400 complaints about short-term rentals in the first quarter of 2016 — 215 of these were repeat complaints.

Correction: This article has been updated to indicate that the minimum distance requirement between Type 2 units would not apply to existing units that are already licensed.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Motorcyclist died in crash Monday near Travis, Hays county line
Motorcyclist died in crash Monday near Travis, Hays county line

A motorcyclist died in a crash with a tow truck Monday near the Travis and Hays county line, the Department of Public Safety said. Mackenzie Aloysius Gmitter, 26, died at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center less than an hour after the crash was reported, DPS officials said. Officials responded to the Hays County crash on FM 1626 at 4:25 p...
Democrat Lupe Valdez talks guns, immigration, spending
Democrat Lupe Valdez talks guns, immigration, spending

Democrat Lupe Valdez, six weeks into her run for Texas governor, took exception to Republican handling of immigration, gun laws and the state’s rainy day fund during a wide-ranging discussion Thursday in Austin. Valdez also defended lackluster fundraising numbers after her campaign collected only $46,000 in the last 3½ weeks of December...
Austin wants to go paperless. Here’s how you can help.
Austin wants to go paperless. Here’s how you can help.

Think for a moment about the most cumbersome paperwork you’ve ever submitted to the city of Austin. City officials want to hear all about it. Mayor Steve Adler announced the city’s partnership Thursday with Austin Tech Alliance to launch a “paper census” to identify outdated paper-based processes and suggest digital alternatives...
TEXAS DIGEST: Some school districts cancel classes due to flu

PUBLIC HEALTH Some school districts cancel classes due to flu Some Texas school districts have canceled classes because of high numbers of students and staff experiencing illnesses including the flu. Gunter Independent School District, located north of Dallas, announced Wednesday that it would close beginning Thursday after about 30 percent of its...
Advocates: Immigrant who said guard assaulted her attempted suicide
Advocates: Immigrant who said guard assaulted her attempted suicide

A woman in custody at an immigration detention center in Taylor who has accused a guard of sexually assaulting her recently tried to commit suicide, advocates said this week. Laura Monterrosa, a woman from El Salvador who has been held at the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center since May, tried to kill herself on Jan. 11, according to the Austin-based...
More Stories