Bat­tle over short-term rentals moves to the Leg­is­la­ture,

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By El­iz­a­beth Fin­dell efind­ell@states­

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 short­term 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, short­term 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.”

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