Austin’s battle over short-term rentals moves to the Legislature


Highlights

Austin Mayor Steve Adler defends Austin’s regulations on short-term rentals to state lawmakers.

Council Member Ellen Troxclair testified against the city’s rules.

Bill would bar cities from banning short-term rentals and would allow only health and safety regulations.

Austin’s battle over regulation of short-term rental properties rages on — now in the Legislature, which is considering a measure to overturn Austin rental rules.

The proposed bill, from state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would bar local jurisdictions from prohibiting short-term rentals and allow jurisdictions to regulate them only for health and safety purposes.

The proposal brought Mayor Steve Adler and City Council Member Ellen Troxclair to the Capitol on Tuesday evening to speak on opposite sides of the issue in a public hearing before the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. Austin city policies put strict limits on capacity in such rentals and seek to phase out full-time, short-term rentals in neighborhoods by 2022.

To defend Austin’s rules, which include limits on the number of guests per house and the size of outdoor gatherings, Adler spoke of the difference between neighborhoods composed of full-time residents who know each other versus homes owned by outside investors who rent them full-time to tourists.

A neighbor might throw a big party on the weekend when his daughter gets married, but “my neighbor’s not going to do that very often — in part because he doesn’t have that many daughters,” Adler said.

Troxclair argued the other side, bemoaning her minority view on the City Council and accusing her colleagues of “choosing to punish the vast majority of responsible property owners.” Most complaints aren’t filed against such full-time rentals, she said.

Representatives of Galveston and Fort Worth also turned out, concerned that the bill could restrict their abilities to restrict signage and parking at rental properties, as well as the proportion of short-term rental homes in neighborhoods.

Justin Bragiel, representative of the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association, argued the proposed bill gives special treatment to short-term rentals to operate within residential areas when other businesses cannot.

“Make no mistake, this is a business,” he said.

Several Austinites turned out with tales of rental issues in their neighborhoods. Mike Polston said he learned what a short-term rental was when two houses in his neighborhood, with the same owner, became rentals that sleep 20-30 people and are rented every week. Joe Reynolds recounted a house in his neighborhood being rented to moviemakers who staged a nighttime gunfight in the street.

“One resident’s rights should not outweigh another,” he said.

But rental owners largely argued that they are good people who manage their properties responsibly and that bad actors are the exception. Other proponents of the bill called Austin’s enforcement powers, which allow code inspectors to enter properties without a warrant, “kind of creepy.”

Mary Owens, who owns five rental properties within a mile of her home, noted that the city code didn’t address short-term rentals at all until a few years ago.

Few of the full-time, short-term rentals actually registered, she said, and then the city changed the rules to eliminate them.

“The city of Austin made something legal and allowed me to register for something and allowed me to invest millions— millions of dollars — in real estate for a specific purpose, and then changed their mind and decided to revoke my permit,” she said. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

TODAY: Groups plan opposing rallies at Texas Capitol
TODAY: Groups plan opposing rallies at Texas Capitol

Conservative groups will march down Congress Avenue to the Texas Capitol on Saturday afternoon in support of First Amendment rights to free speech and in protest of violence that occurred last month in Portland, Ore., at a far-right rally. The March Against Far-Left Violence is taking place Saturday in conjunction with similar rallies across the country...
OVERNIGHT: Woman struck by vehicle, critically injured in North Austin, EMS says 
OVERNIGHT: Woman struck by vehicle, critically injured in North Austin, EMS says 

A woman has critical injuries after being struck be a vehicle early Saturday in North Austin, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Medics said they responded at 12:05 a.m. to a crash where a driver had struck a pedestrian in the 800 block of Clayton Lane, which is near Airport Boulevard and Koenig Lane. EMS said they took a woman, described as...
FORECAST: Hot and sunny Saturday in Austin, with heat index to hit 105 
FORECAST: Hot and sunny Saturday in Austin, with heat index to hit 105 

Saturday forecast for Austin: It’s going to be an especially hot Saturday in Central Texas, with highs forecast to hit 102 in the Austin area under sunny skies. Meteorologists say it could feel even hotter because of the humidity and have put the heat index at 105. The National Weather Service is warning people to limit their time outdoors and...
Duke University says Robert E. Lee statue won't return to chapel entrance
Duke University says Robert E. Lee statue won't return to chapel entrance

Duke University announced the spot where a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee once stood will remain empty.  >> Read more trending news  A year ago on Aug. 19, crews removed the statue from the iconic chapel entrance. The removal came several days after the statue was defaced in the wake of the protests that turned violent...
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan dead at 80
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan dead at 80

Kofi Annan, a diplomat from Ghana who served as UN Secretary-General for nine years and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, died early Saturday, CNN reported. He was 80. >> Read more trending news  Annan died in a hospital in Bern, Switzerland. Reuters reported. Annan was the seventh Secretary-General, serving from 1997 to 2006...
More Stories