There were plenty of signs that today’s City Council meeting would be controversial. It wasn’t electricity rates, but debate over a study of short-term rentals (STRs) that ate up hours of council’s time this morning and afternoon. (That hearing on Austin Energy’s proposed rate increase is on for around 6 p.m.)
Avalanches of amendments were offered to the STR proposal by Bill Spelman and Chris Riley, but not enough for a unanimous vote. It passed 5-2, with Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo voting no.
The resolution directs the City Auditor to create a comprehensive list of all STRs in Austin, and discover how many code compliance complaints and 311/911 calls had been made against the properties. Such information gathering was necessary, Spelman said, before the city passed new rules regulating STRs. The new regulations are in the process of being drafted before coming to the Planning Commission for a recommendation.
Council adopted an amendment from Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole stepping up collection of hotel occupancy taxes from the rentals; a previous study by the City Auditor found tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
An amendment from Chris Riley asked that the review note the location of the rental and the owner, in order to identify problematic absentee landlords.
And another amendment from Kathie Tovo called for the study to be completed by April 12. Lastly, Spelman changed his resolution language, making it a postponement of the ongoing code amendment process, instead of a suspension.