At a marathon meeting that stretched early into Wednesday morning, Austin’s Planning Commission recommended new regulations for short-term rentals – properties that homeowners offer for rent on sites like HomeAway and VRBO.com.
Short-term rentals are increasingly popular over events like South by Southwest and the Austin City Limits Music Festival, with Austin visitors choosing to rent area homes instead of staying in hotels. But the growth in short-term rentals hasn’t been applauded by all.
Those pushing to regulate short-term rentals argue they can be detrimental to neighborhoods, and have considered regulating them as commercial rather than residential properties. Homeowners that rent out their homes and companies that depend on their business – like Austin-based HomeAway – argue too much regulation will drive the market underground, giving aggrieved neighbors even less options for dealing with bad actors.
Last night, the Planning Commission attempted to split the difference. The commission proposed separating short-term rentals into two groups. The first group would be homes that are owner-occupied, and rented out for less than 90 days annually in increments of less than 30 days – those Austinites looking to capitalize on the city’s several special events.
The second group includes homes that are not owner-occupied, and are rented out 90 days or more annually. The second group of homeowners would also have to maintain a 1,000 foot buffer from other type two rentals, and/or existing bed and breakfast. To register as either type of rental, the homeowner would have to pay a registration fee and pay hotel occupancy taxes.
City staff didn’t recommend the proposal, but does recommend that homes rented for 30 days or less on five or more occasions annually register with the city and undergo a health and safety inspection.
For the proposal to take effect, the City Council would have to approve the regulations. Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposals Thursday.