The Austin, Texas, City Council may soon consider revising how the city manages unlicensed short-term rentals (STRs). Austin mandates and issues licenses for three types of properties to operate as STRs — owner-occupied and non-owner-occupied single-family homes, and multifamily units irrespective of occupancy status. Almost 2,000 STRs, many offered through companies like Airbnb or Vrbo, were licensed citywide as of this summer; slightly more than two-thirds are owner-occupied residences while more than 27 percent are in multifamily spaces. Yet the number of unlicensed STRs are about four to six times greater than Austin's licensed total, with some 9,700 STR listings active online as of Sept. 6. Code department Director José Roig said at the briefing that most STR complaints are from unlicensed properties, and various challenges leave Austin with little recourse when responding to those concerns or identifying potential problem STRs. Finding unlicensed homes is a challenge, with Roig remarking that rental advertisers have become "very savvy" when posting their properties on services like Airbnb by limiting any identifying information — and once a listing is removed, code officers cannot find it again. The city also faces a lack of cooperation or data-sharing from large rental companies. Amplifying concerns is Intergovernmental Relations Officer Brie Franco's expectation that bills to permit rental properties in any location and with "very minimal" enforcement options for cities could be on the table next year.
Community Impact Newspaper (09/08/22) Ben Thompson