Tell Council To Do the Right Thing

RECEIVED Tue., June 12, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Isn't it ironic? We’ve got some capitalist speculators in Austin that want bailouts – for themselves. At your expense.
    They want you to be forced to accept inserting commercial businesses into your neighborhood, possibly right next door to you. These commercial businesses are boutique hotels, aka commercial short-term rentals – homes bought as investments to use as hotels that rent out for less than 30 days, often for a weekend at a time. This is illegal and always has been. But, there was a public hearing on this topic at City Council last week and five council members voted on first reading to allow this. We need to speak up and halt this.
    More irony: Their vote undermines the city's new master plan because CSTRs violate multiple tenets of the plan. Other new plans ban CSTRs – the new condo towers Downtown do not allow short-term rentals.
    Having short-term renters displace residents who are committed, long-term neighbors is disruptive and harms the quality of life. And, again, it's illegal. It's not fair to change the rules after we’ve already purchased our homes.
    It's a land use/zoning issue:
    1) Stability of neighborhoods, schools, and churches – CSTRs reduce the number of citizens in a neighborhood who create the fabric of society.
    2) Citizen safety in neighborhoods – CSTR's customers are not residents. They constantly come and go, so residents no longer know who belongs in the neighborhood, and neighborhood crime watch programs are weakened.
    3) The loss of voting, contributing citizens of Austin.
    4) Housing costs increase for all Austin citizens as CSTRs reduce the supply.
    CSTRs destroy the quality of life and existence of a neighborhood by converting homes into boutique hotels. CSTRs remove neighbors from neighborhoods. You lose the potential to have a friend, crime watcher, and/or neighborhood volunteer.
    CSTRs are banned from New York City to Chicago, Telluride, San Francisco, and Napa. From Oahu to Portland, Santa Monica, Phoenix to the Florida Keys. Even right here in Rollingwood they are illegal. But our Austin neighborhoods will be turned into commercial boutique hotel zones. There are currently between 2,000 and 3,000 short-term rentals in Austin and the number is increasing dramatically.
    Just ask yourself: do you want a commercial short-term rental property next door to you? Do you want strangers next door?
    Tell City Council to do the right thing—keep commercial short term rentals illegal.
Kevin Wier
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