What follows is an email posted to the Austin Neighborhood Council’s listserve:
Dear ANC Members,
The Austin Neighborhoods Council was established in 1973.
Our motto is Strength Through Unity. We need unity now more than ever.
The following information will only take a few minutes to read. It is vital that we all appreciate and understand the problem with Commercial Short-Term Rentals, and why ANC should strongly opposes the ordinance the Austin City Council is currently poised to pass unless we take action.
A rally is scheduled for this Saturday at 10 AM , which is close to the headquarters for HomeAway. The proposed ordinance, which we should strongly oppose, was heavily influenced and drafted by representatives of HomeAway.
Business enterprises like Commercial Short-Term Rentals are not permitted within residential zoning and should not be allowed. But unless you act, they will be because Chris Riley, Mike Martinez, Lee Leffingwell, Bill Spelman and Sheryl Cole think such “hotel” business activity within neighborhoods should be allowed. Their five votes will open the floodgates to corporate-backed short-term rentals. (Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo oppose commercial short-term rentals.)
I ask you to actively oppose this proposed ordinance, sign the petition and come to the rally for the following reasons:
· REDUCED PUBLIC SCHOOL ENROLLMENT. The proposed ordinance, which would legalize the growing problem of commercial short-term rentals, has the potential to significantly reduce the enrollment and viability of Austin’s public schools, particularly for smaller central city elementary campuses where the loss of a several dozen students can easily tip a school into under-enrollment. Unfortunately, these are the very neighborhoods now experiencing a growing surge of Commercial Short-Term rentals.
· POSSIBLE SCHOOL CLOSURES. The loss of homes due to the rising numbers of Commercial Short-Term Rentals can substantially reduce enrollment in neighborhood schools, increasing risk for closure.
· TOO MANY SHORT-TERM RENTALS. Clustering of Commercial Short-Term Rentals will exacerbate the negative impacts on schools. The City of Austin’s Planning Commission originally recommended a minimum distance of 1000′ between Commercial Short-Term Rentals to avoid clustering non-resident uses. However, this limitation has been dropped from the current draft ordinance.
· PUBLIC SAFETY. Probation conditions for registered sex offenders are unenforceable in commercial short-term rentals near schools or child-centered activities. Buffer zones must not be left out of any ordinance that is passed.
· SIGNIFICANT LOSS OF MULTI-FAMILY HOMES. Allowing unregulated Commercial Short-Term Rentals in multifamily dwellings creates the potential loss of tens of thousands of housing units citywide, removing housing options for Austin students and families and contributing to student mobility, which can hurt academic achievement.
In closing, consider this: How many families now live in West Campus, now that the apartments, sublets, dormitories and fraternity houses have taken over? Very few.
How many families live in the homes near downtown that are now predominantly occupied by law firms? Not as many as the lawyers.
When you drastically change the nature of a neighborhood, sadly, the neighborhood dies.
We worked too hard for years with the city to create an ordinance that would satisfy all parties. The current draft of the ordinance up for a vote unfairly serves the interests of short-term rental businesses over those of neighborhoods.
It’s just this simple: Commercial short-term rentals are hotel-like businesses that do not belong in the neighborhoods we cherish. Please join our effort to oppose this ordinance and push for one that better protects the interests of neighborhoods and schools.
Austin Neighborhoods Council