Planning Commission recommends suspending STR licenses

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Austin Planning Commission voted 8-2 to recommend City Council place a one-year moratorium on licenses for Type 2 short-term rentals in residential zones.

Commission Vice Chairman Fayez Kazi and Commissioner James Schissler cast the dissenting votes.

Type 2 STRs are those in which the owner of the property does not reside. A slew of homeowners who live near Type 2 STRs—both licensed and unlicensed—attended the Oct. 28 meeting to testify in favor of the moratorium.

Stephanie Ashworth, a member of the group Neighbors for Short Term Rental Reform, said investors buy residential houses and advertise them as rentals on websites, such as AirBnB, in excess of the occupancy rates and often without an STR license.

“Part of the problem is the party houses,” she said, adding that the gatherings were often adult-oriented, and the excessive trash left behind is a health and safety issue.

She asked the commission to recommend suspending new licenses until amendments to the STR Type 2 ordinance can be made.

Jessica Neufeld said she has been living next to a Type 2 STR for more than a year.

“The property is vacant half the week and filled with upwards of 18 strangers the second half,” she said.

Neufeld said more than 5,000 STRs in Austin are listed on AirBnB, but the city has issued only about 1,200 licenses.

“It’s not just a few bad actors,” she said.

Ryan Suneson, Neufeld’s husband, warned the commission not to trust statistics on STRs from AirBnB or the Austin Rental Alliance, which cited only 12 “bad actors,” who had received five complaints or more over the course of a year.

Phil Thomas of the East Town Lake Citizens Neighborhood Association said STR Type 2s are businesses that should not be allowed to operate in residentially zoned areas.

Six more residents urged the commission to recommend the suspension.

Two residents spoke against the recommendation, including Andrei Lubomudrov, policy analyst for the Austin Board of Realtors, who said the moratorium does nothing to address the existing bad actors. He also said if the commission recommends the moratorium, it should also develop performance measures for STRs and track complaints, site visits, citations and court actions.

The ordinance would still allow licensed STR Type 2 properties to operate, and more licenses could be issued outside of residentially zoned areas. Furthermore, the ordinance directs the city manager to set a public hearing on or before Dec. 31, 2016 to discuss changes to the ordinance.

Commissioner Jean Stevens made the motion to recommend the moratorium to city council, which is scheduled to consider the ordinance at its Nov. 12 meeting.

The Planning Commission postponed a discussion on amendments to all STRs until Dec. 8, at city staff’s request.

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