Austin City Council to take up short-term rentals at Aug. 2 meeting

The Austin City Council plans to take up the second and third readings and possible approval of an ordinance regulating short-term rentals in the city.

The ordinance would require all STRs to register with the city and display occupancy limits and proof of a home inspection. The ordinance caps the number of STRs within a given ZIP code for non-owner-occupied homes and homes leased more than 90 days per year at 3 percent.

Councilwoman Kathie Tovo had questions for staff regarding the potential impact of STRs on neighborhood schools at the council's work session July 31. According to an analysis of the 78704 ZIP code done in collaboration with Austin ISD, there are approximately 7,200 single-family homes in 78704. The impact study concluded that if the ordinance-mandated maximum of 3 percent of those homes became non-owner-occupied STRs, there could potentially be 216 non-owner-occupied STRs.

Using the school district's formula of 0.24 children per household, that could mean 86 fewer students for 78704's schools. Tovo and Councilwoman Laura Morrison have said they were most concerned about primary schools, such as Zilker and Barton Hills elementary schools, that have previously been considered for closure. Assuming half of those children were primary students as the district does when calculating these matters, 43 potential primary students could be lost. The district spread that number over the six elementary schools in the 78704 ZIP code and determined that the impact would be negligible.

Tovo was not convinced.

"Nothing requires them to spread out over all six schools," she said.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell asked for staff to ask AISD for more specific information regarding impact.

"How many would it take?" Leffingwell asked. "Would it take 15 to make a difference? Would it take 20?"

Austinites have become vocal on both sides of the issue, with some protesting the idea of non-owner-occupied STRs by demonstrating in front of HomeAway, a popular website facilitating the rental of vacation homes. Residents have spoken out against STRs, citing noise, safety and traffic concerns.

"Such business use is not legal land use under the land development code. It never has been, it should not be now, nor should it in the future," Austin Neighborhoods Council President Steven Aleman said at a May Planning Commission meeting regarding STRs.

The Austin Board of Realtors has launched the Keep Austin Reasonable campaign in support of the proposed ordinance. The campaign asserts that nuisances such as noise and trash are not more likely in an STR than in other types of properties and that a majority of Austinites oppose banning STRs, even in the 78704 area code, which has the largest portion of STRs.

"Unfortunately, myths about short-term rentals persist, and a few loud voices are advocating for overzealous regulation that will greatly curtail property owners' rights without benefiting neighborhoods," ABoR Government Affairs Director Emily Chenevert said in a news release.

To read the proposed ordinance its entirety, visit the city's website.



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