Short-Term Rentals and their regulation have been a contentious issue
across the country.  Now it’s Austin’s turn.  The City Council is set
to approve a policy next week allowing commercial short-term rentals in
neighborhoods, Statesman.com reports.

those who are for short-term rentals and against them have been
fighting hard to have their voices heard through the media, online
petitions and protests.  The short-term rental market is estimated to
comprise more than 3 million properties nationwide.  New York, San
Francisco and Portland, Oregon have banned short-term rentals entirely,
while Maui, Hawaii allowed them, but sets a cap of 400 properties and
makes renters pay a 9.25 percent hotel tax.  So far, Austin hasn’t
imposed any regulations at all.

Austin’s debate is centered on
commercial rentals, homes that are only used to be rented out as
short-term rentals.  A study recently done by the city found about 1,500
short-term rentals in the city, with a third of those in the 78704 zip
code.  The city proposes allowing short-term commercial rentals and
requiring all renters to register with the city and pay a 15 percent
hotel tax.  It would also limit the amount of short-term rentals to 3
percent of the number of houses in a ZIP code.  These rules don’t apply,
however, to multifamily properties.

Neighborhood groups opposed
to the rentals are concerned that they “hollow out” urban neighborhoods
by keeping houses out of the hands of potential residents and in the
hands of what are essentially business owners in a residential zone. 
With a shortage of urban housing already a problem, and urban
neighborhood schools already in danger of closing because of decreased
attendance, neighbors see short-term rentals as a real threat to their
way of life.  Recently, many people in the short-term rental opposition
protested in front of the headquarters of “Home Away”, a service which
allows owners to rent out these properties online.

Those in favor
of the short-term rentals, such as the president of the Austin Rental
Alliance, says that a ban on residential rentals of less than 30 days
won’t work and cities are also missing out on the chance to collect
hotel taxes.  He worries that a ban will just drive short term rentals
underground.  They also see the ban as an infringement on property
owners’ rights.  Portland, Oregon has a person on staff just to peruse
online rental listings to find violators of their ban.

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