Earlier today on the Austin Neighborhoods Council (ANC) listserv, Jason Meeker posted the NYT op-ed “The Dark Side of the Sharing Economy” and “assert[ed] that our city council has also made Austin less affordable by restricting the supply of homes and apartments that are used for nothing other than short-term rentals.”

The following is my response to him via the ANC list:

There’s no doubt we’re struggling with affordability in Austin. My husband and I, in fact, came home just today to a estimated 2014 property tax bill 12.5% higher than the one we paid in 2013. I suspect many of you are getting similar letters in the mail this week.

That’s why I’m so grateful to our City Council Members who had the courage to stand up for Austinites’ right to rent out a bedroom short-term in their homes. My husband and I are among those registered in the City’s STR program. The extra income we bring in from renting our spare room to Airbnb guests helps us defray the ever-rising cost of living in Austin, even after we pay the hefty chunk (well over one-third) of our rental income in city registration fees, city taxes, state taxes, and federal taxes.

As of the latest data release, there are three homestead STRs (Type I in Code-speak) registered with the City for every two commercial STRs (Type II) registered. The clear majority of STRs in our city are just Austinites in their own private homes hosting guests to help pay the bills. City leaders should support owner-occupied STRs if they’re serious about addressing our affordability crisis.

It is true that restricting housing supply lessens affordability. However, long-term renting of spare bedrooms doesn’t work for everyone in all situations. We, for example, host visiting family and friends intermittently (and often on short notice) throughout the year. A long-term renter wouldn’t be compatible, but Airbnb enables us to make use of that spare room whenever we don’t have personal guests.

Thanks to the Council Members who defended our right to rent out our guest room, we’re better able to pay our escalating property taxes, plus we get to host people from all over the world who are here to explore Austin, spending money at local businesses and paying sales taxes that fund City services for everyone. That is a win for all of us.

Best,
Julie

Julie Montgomery, MPAff
Davis-Thompson NA – Central East Austin

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