Public testimony in support of Short Term Rental Bill HB2551

I testified in support of Short Term Rental bills SB451 and HB2551. Here is my testimony in support of HB2551 from April 18, 2017.

Members of the committee,

My name is Josh Margolis. I have been an Airbnb Host in Austin for almost five years. We live in our home and the guests stay with us. We have hosted people from all over the country and the world. We’ve enjoyed getting to know our guests and making friends with them. A few of our guests have been people who needed a place to stay while they are looking to move to Austin. My partner, Adam, is a realtor and has sold houses to some of our guests.

Here are some of the type of guests we’ve had the pleasure of hosting:

  • Two guests with a startup company who were presenting at SXSW
  • A couple of engineers from China with their children looking to move to Austin
  • Many travel nurses and other professionals who need a temporary place to live for work
  • Parents traveling with their kids to help them get settled at UT
  • Guests traveling with dogs who chose us because we accommodate dogs and also have dogs

In addition to meeting new people, being an Airbnb host has enabled us to save money. In fact, we have been able to build up an emergency household fund to help us when we have home repairs and other needs for our house. Having that money in place for emergencies makes me feel very reassured that should we have expensive repairs on our house or have a financial setback, we have a safety net in place.

There is a perception that the Short Term Rental Ordinance passed by the city of Austin in February 2016 only affects short term rental owners who don’t live on their property. I would like to dispel that notion. Under the current Austin STR ordinance, all short term rental owners are not allowed to have more than six unrelated people in their home at any time. Besides the fact that this law is practically unenforceable, under this ordinance, theoretically we could be hosting an Airbnb guest and during that time period we could not have our annual Hanukkah or New Year’s party, or even have friends over, as that would violate the ordinance since our house was technically being used as a short-term rental at the time. There are numerous other rules, including rules about how many people can be in the backyard or front yard, that come from a nanny-state caricature and are an affront to the common decency shown by people who allow others to stay in their home. We have our neighbors over all the time and they like getting to know our guests. If a guest is staying with us, and if we are in our front or backyard with our neighbors and guests, then technically we are violating Austin’s STR ordinance. The city of Austin’s ordinance does nothing but punish all STR owners and drives STR activity underground.

Furthermore, the city of Austin has recently doubled the initial licensing fees for type 1 (or primary residence) permits to $443. Between a cost-prohibitive $443 fee, a complicated registration and taxation system, and the low staffing levels of the city’s STR office, Austin has turned the process of getting approved to rent your spare bedroom into a month, or even a multi-month, process. If we as STR owners provided our money to a governmental body that actually enforced its short-term rental laws and punished real bad actors, I might feel ok about it. That is not currently the case, however.

I conclude with this fact: according to the ongoing lawsuit being brought against the city of Austin by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, “Since the initiation of short-term rental licensing regulations in October 2012, there have been zero (0) citations issued for noise, occupancy, trash or other violations of the Austin Municipal Code that are documented to have stemmed from a licensed short-term rental property or tenants.”

I respectfully ask that this committee pass this bill and provide relief to all short term rental owners in our wonderful state’s Capitol.

Thank you.

Public testimony in support of Short Term Rental Bill HB2551 was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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