With the AirBNB issue on the front burner, I guess it is time to talk about some of the issues. A couple of years ago we had a party house that went viral on several weekends and the neighbors were fed up with the actions of the short term renters. I brought this forward to Council and there was little appetite for a resolution at that time. It was determined that it would be advantageous to list the residence with the city and if they were rented as short term rentals then a hotel tax should be added, because it took away from the business of our hotels. It would also register the home so we could see if there recurring issues with certain rentals. Now this is part of the economic impact that our city has because we enjoy a vibrant entertainment district. People will come here for any number of events. One such event that was problematic was Texas/OU weekend. You can imagine students renting a 5,000 sq/ft plus house to party for the weekend next to your home. This is what we need to stop!
Now I believe that there are legitimate and responsible people that can rent their homes without the discourse that some irresponsible owners allow. That is where some regulation and guidance would be advised. Austin doesn’t allow you to rent you’re home unless you are the resident of that home. This would allow people to rent their own home for events such as Super Bowls and World Series etc. This also would preserve home owner’s rights, which is a big issue. The second possibility would be to have the home owner live within a certain distance from the rental property, say 300 ft. That way if there was a problem then the neighbors would have recourse to the owner that lives in the immediate area.
If you own a property, you should have certain rights. One of those rights is to rent the home to help defer the cost of the mortgage. But the rights of the owner should not allow the degradation of the neighborhood. The problem is that there are good landlords and there are also slumlords that only care about cash flow. The city will have to regulate for the lowest common denominator, to insure that neighborhoods are protected and still uphold property owner’s rights. That is why I brought this back up to the Council as a new agenda item. I suggest that you watch the June 28th afternoon session of the meeting, on the city website. It is very informative and will give you an idea as to the depth of this issue.
Now some people say that this is the same thing as running a business in a neighborhood, zoned for residential. No it is not. The swinger’s house was in fact a business that had a revenue stream dedicated to providing a service. Renting your home does, in fact provide a revenue stream. But the service is shelter, just like the homeowner next door, and we are all entitled to shelter. If a homeowner rents his home for a year, we don’t know what that renter is like. They might be very nice people. The duration of the rental seems to be the problem, because if there is a more frequent turnover of the inhabitants, then there is an increasing the possibility of problematic tenants. That is why I think the city should look at this issue and come up with a solution.