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Petition Suggests Giving Priced-Out Venues Rent Control. But Is That Possible in Austin?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT
The crowd at an event protesting the Hyatt hotel development adjacent to Cheer Up Charlies.

Last week downtown Austin music venue Holy Mountain announced it will close its doors this fall because of rising rent prices. Advocates say more music venues will begin to fall as Austin rents increase — the club's neighbor Red 7 is also staring down a rent hike. So some Austinites and out of town music-boosters are floating a solution.

A 500-plus signature petition on is proposing a simple solution to the Austin City Council: rent control. 

But that solution, as idyllic as it may sound, is too good to be true in Austin — and the entire state of Texas, for that matter. 

According to David Mintz with the Texas Apartment Association, cities in Texas can only establish rent control after a natural disaster — when homes have been destroyed and people are trying to find affordable places to live. And, even then, it’s only temporary and doesn't apply to commercial properties.

So the 509 folks who are hoping to save Austin’s music scene through rent control laws are out of luck, “no matter how many signatures we got on that petition,” says Jennifer Houlihan, executive director of Austin Music People. She says that while rent control isn’t an option, the petition represents a larger change.

“Austin’s music fans and its artists and its music businesses are ready to become engaged in the civic process at a higher level than before," she says.

Houlihan says some feasible ways of doing this include changing the city’s permitting process and finding other ways to preserve local venues.

The city released its first comprehensive music census last month, and it found that many of the artists who make Austin the “Live Music Capital of the World” are actually struggling to meet the increased costs of living here.

Houlihan and Austin Music People will present research detailing how city policy could be changed to protect the live music scene on July 29 at Holy Mountain, which, as of now, is set to close its doors for good two months later.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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