Consider property rights of neighboring short-term tenants
Homeowners in single-family neighborhoods buy their homes based on their city’s residential zoning rules. In Dallas, Section 51A of the development code clearly states that lodging is an excluded land use for residential areas in the city. Accommodation includes hotels, motels and boarding houses. City and state tax codes define short-term rentals as lodging and therefore impose the hotel occupancy tax on them.
The city cannot have it both ways. If short-term rental is assimilated to housing in the tax code, consistency requires that it be assimilated to housing in the planning code. Based on a fair reading of our zoning laws, short-term rentals are commercial hotel entities, and they should only be allowed to operate in the same areas where hotels and lodgings are currently permitted. If the city continues to allow short-term rentals in residential areas, especially single-family neighborhoods, then the city is ignoring its own rules and obliterating the fabric of its neighborhoods. Why even have zoning laws at all?
With no restrictions on STRs, they’ve grown 552% over the past five years and it’s now estimated that there are at least 6,000 STRs in Dallas, according to data compiled by Inside Airbnb. Over 85% of Airbnb listings are for entire homes or entire apartments where the owner does not live on the property. In fact, 53% of those listings belong to business investors who don’t even live in Dallas.
With no interest other than profits, these absentee owners do not reliably vet their guests or monitor their activities. Enforcement is left to neighbors who have to deal with the constant stream of strangers entering their neighborhood and bringing with them nuisances including loud noise, litter, street parking congestion and, all too often, traffic jams. crimes and shootings. Our code compliance and police departments are already understaffed and under-resourced to adequately respond to all 311/911 complaints.
But bad actors are only part of the problem caused by short-term rentals. There are approximately 4,500 entire homes and apartments rented on Airbnb that are now removed from our housing stock. The city of Dallas’ housing director tells us there’s less than a month’s worth of housing available. Home buyers are paying high prices for the few houses available.
At the Dallas Neighborhood Coalition, our vision is that short-term rental homes in residential areas will become available to families who wish to live here. Homes that sit vacant for several days will once again be filled with families raising their children, attending our schools, and going to work in Dallas businesses. Residents will again have neighbors and not faceless investors and strangers. Dallas employers will benefit when their employees can live nearby rather than travel long distances. And we can help mitigate the much worse scenario that occurs when the talent our businesses need goes elsewhere due to a lack of affordable housing in Dallas.
It’s time for the city to put the interests of its citizens and our businesses ahead of the greed of the Airbnb & VRBO behemoths. We agree with those who say Dallas must protect property owners’ rights. We’re talking about the property rights of over 500,000 landlords who live in Dallas versus a few thousand short-term rental owners/operators, most of whom don’t even live here.
Tom Forsyth is an organizer for the Dallas Neighborhood Coalition and president of the Oak Park Estates Neighborhood Association. He wrote this for The Dallas Morning News.
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