Thousands flooding into Austin for events are staying in unlicensed short-term rentals
AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s something the city of Austin has been trying to navigate for years: ensuring that homes and apartments that could be suitable housing for Austin residents in the midst of a housing crisis aren’t turned into short term rentals.
City officials estimate there are between 9,000-11,000 STRs in the city of Austin, but Coding Director Jose Roig said in his briefing to some City Council members in September that those numbers increase when there are special events in Austin like the Austin City Limits Festival, F1 or a big Austin FC game, all of which are happening in the next few weeks.
People visiting Austin tell us that events have made rents expensive.
“We booked it [an Airbnb] like a month ago. It was about $4,000. We ended up canceling it, booking hotels. We got here, we didn’t like the hotel because it was far. We ended up booking the same Airbnb we booked and canceled at half the price,” a person visiting from Boston told ACL.
He and his friends admitted they also cut costs by having nine people in one place, something the city and rental sites are trying to overcome because they tend to generate noise complaints. But city officials say they struggle to do that right now because thousands of people don’t bother applying for short-term rental licenses, which strips away some of the city’s power to regulate the properties.
Roig told the council in a housing and planning committee update last month that fewer than 2,000 short-term rental properties are licensed in the city. That’s down more than 1,000 licenses during the pandemic, he said.
“People don’t come back to renew their license or get new licenses issued,” he explained.
He also expressed the challenges the city has in citing these people. He said that in order to issue a citation, officers need either a pass from a tenant or the posting of an ad for an unlicensed property, which is usually not provided until the property is booked.
It’s something city council members say will be revisited going forward.
“Every day the city loses thousands of dollars that could go to support the cultural arts, our music community and historic preservation projects, and so I think it’s imperative that our council revisit our STR conversation to have a conversation about how we can work the operators and we are working with our community to make sure we have a system where everyone will benefit from each other,” said Council Member Vanessa Fuentes.
Over the past few years, Airbnb has been working to eliminate parties in their rental properties. They said Texas saw a nearly 50 percent drop in parties reported in 2021 compared to 2020, when they implemented a party ban.
During the Halloween weekend, guests without a history of positive reviews will not be able to make overnight reservations, the company said. People trying to make reservations for this weekend should also recognize that if caught, they could be subject to legal action from the booking company.
Austin Code Enforcement does not have the authority to address the source of a noise complaint, that is something only law enforcement can do.