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Short-Term Rentals Still in Limbo at City

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Sharing economies keep council up late

The Austin CIty Council made some decisions about transportation network companies (aka TNCs, aka Uber, Lyft, etc.) at its regular meeting last night (if you count mandating a voluntary fingerprinting program as a decision). Short-term rentals, a sort of sharing-economy cousin of the TNCs, didn't make it that far.

The Austin-American Statesman reports that after three hours of public testimony on the subject and a day of action-packed agenda wrangling, council members finally got tuckered out at 2 a.m and failed to vote on proposed STR regulations. Council will take up the issue at a special February meeting instead.

The seemingly endless debate around AirBnB, Austin-based HomeAway, and other vacation-type rentals has focused on neighborhood issues, with many groups complaining that Type 2 STRs—commercially operated units in residentially zoned areas, with no owner-occupant—are disruptive and detrimental to the vitality of residential areas.

Council has devoted considerable time to the issue and directed the hiring of more city staff to enforce existing noise and code regulations. The proposed revisions to current regulations before the council included plans to phase out Type 2 rentals altogether; commercial short-term rentals in commercially zoned areas—Type 3 rentals—would not be affected by such a move. Council has already approved a temporary moratorium on new Type 2 license applications.

The city Planning Commission recommends a number of changes that would affect Type 1 rentals—those operated by an onsite owner—including mandating minimum distances between them, prohibiting them from advertising without a license, and allowing code inspections.