Short-term rental issue slows other city services

Residents opposing short term rentals.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Jay Reynolds manages short-term rental (STR) properties, but lately, he’s also been managing his time as the Austin City Council considers short-term rental regulations.

“[The city council has] spent literally a total of 500 hours on this issue,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds is referring to his calculation of the amount of time spent on this issue in council sessions and committee meetings in recent months. Still, time isn’t the only cost. While the council debated what to do, the Austin Code Department was out licensing short-term rental properties and enforcing current rules.

As demands increased, Austin Code started using temporary employees and employees from elsewhere in the department to help handle short-term rentals, according to a city memo. The memo also highlighted the effect that extra enforcement could have.

“While the relocation of Austin Code staff resources has been successful in addressing the increased STR activities, there will be an impact on performance measure of programs from where these resources were taken,” wrote Carl Smart, director of the Austin Code Department.

“We’ve seen more enforcement which means more overtime. We’ve got weekend crews now. We’ve got people that are actually doing enforcement full time,” said Marcus Elliott, a division manager with the department.

That extra work also means strain elsewhere.

“We’ve seen simple cases like nuisance abatements — where people don’t mow their property or they’re putting trash out at the curb — the response time and compliance time in getting those violations corrected has gone up,” said Elliott.

However, Elliot said he’s also seen results, with more people coming to the city to get a short-term rental license. According to a recent Austin Code report, the city had more than 1,300 active short-term rental licenses, which make up about 69 percent of all licenses maintained by the department. Austin Code also oversees licenses for hotels, mobile home parks, and other things such as billboards.

Reynolds believes the city is directing a disproportionate amount of its time and resources to the issue of short-term rentals run by homeowners who do not live in the homes. However, others who support the newly-passed moratorium on certain types of STRs believe the new rules will help reign in the cost of time and enforcement.

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