Eastside Residents Protest STRs

Protesters don't want to see homes turned into hotels

Bertha Delgado (Photo by Jana Birchum)

As City Council resumes discussion of the long-awaited short-term rental ordinance this week, some Eastside residents gathered at City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 26, to call for an immediate ban on Type 2 (non-owner occupied) rentals. "We are seeing an unprecedented number of demolitions of small but often historic homes – so that STR 2s can be built," organizers wrote in a public statement. "These hotels are enterprises that do not belong in Austin's neighborhoods."

Ever since the city created a licensing program for STRs, there has been a cap on the number of Type 2s permitted on any given census tract. Despite the limit, these vacation rentals have provoked significant opposition from the communities they operate within, spurring City Council to initiate an ordinance last fall that would phase out Type 2s from residential areas by 2022, and the Planning Commission recommending a phase-out deadline of 2020.

The debate is split as to whether these short-term rentals are a systemic threat to residential areas, or whether the problem amounts to a few bad actors causing minor disruptions that could be curbed with more stringent regulation. Bertha Delgado, president of East Town Lake Citizens Neighborhood Assoc­ia­tion, sees the Type 2 rentals as being part of a larger pattern of gentrification. In her view, demolishing houses for the sake of short-term rentals parallels the infamous demolition of the Jumpolin piñata shop last year. In fact F&F Real Estate Ventures, the developers that destroyed the Latino-owned business with no effective warning, also own a number of short-term rentals in the same neighborhood. "People say the developers are pushing us out to make money, but it's about money and race," Delgado said. "That's the message we're trying to get out there."

After reviewing staff recommendations during a work session on Tuesday, Council seems resigned to a gradual phase-out plan rather than an immediate ban. Nevertheless, Delgado remains optimistic that sustained community protest could force these short-term rentals out of residential areas sooner than later. A public hearing is scheduled for 7pm at today's Council meeting (see above), but may be postponed, depending on how quickly Council gets through its morning agenda.

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short-term rentals, STRs, Bertha Delgado, City Council

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