Regulating short-term rentals in Dallas is not a solution
The Dallas City Council has yet to agree on whether to ban short-term rentals in certain neighborhoods, but discussions are ongoing. The lack of regulation and clear rules has frustrated some residents.
Simply regulating short-term rentals won’t work in Dallas. We all know that the city cannot adequately enforce any regulatory system we might create.
Short-term rentals are a land use decision – do we allow our housing stock to be used as short-term accommodation, and if so, under what rules? Every land use decision is a balancing act. In this case, we balance the right of existing residents to the quiet enjoyment of their homes, neighborhood building, and the need to use our housing stock to house residents against the profits of short-term rental operators and platforms. such as Airbnb and VRBO.
The most pressing sustainability issue facing our city is the lack of affordable housing, not just traditional low-income housing. Working families suffer from the “missing middle” of housing, increasingly available only in the suburbs. To thrive, Dallas must have stable housing for all its residents, because we cannot expect our neighbors to succeed in employment, education, or otherwise without a supportive place to live.
In this environment of acute housing shortage, every short-term rental robs us of a long-term housing unit that the city needs; removing housing units has a negative impact on all other levels of housing. The only benefit to the city from operating short-term rentals — the hotel occupancy tax — cannot be used under state law to produce housing and is rarely paid by tenants anyway. operators or platforms.
Short-term rentals also negatively impact neighborhoods in other ways. In single-family and other residential neighborhoods, neighbors have grown frustrated with the city’s inability to stop the proliferation of party houses that have been documented to bring disruption, noise, and even crime to quiet neighborhoods. The platforms allow homeowners to advertise their homes as event spaces encouraging parties and other disruptive events without regard to their surroundings. Condominium associations, condominium associations, and centrally managed buildings all have effective tools to regulate and/or limit short-term rentals, but single-family neighborhoods have none of that. A city so unable to regulate party homes will also fail to effectively administer the regulations that allow short-term rentals in single-family neighborhoods.
Platforms have proven to be unreliable partners in any sort of city-regulation effort. Although these platforms air heartwarming TV ads, they adamantly refuse to cooperate with local governments to provide the data needed for regulation and enforcement, frequently suing local governments to avoid having to do so. And they refuse to help collect hotel tax. They provide little to no accountability to operators, which are increasingly companies without a Dallas presence.
While there are certainly responsible operators in our city, short-term rentals have never been legal to operate in residential neighborhoods under our development code. The city has always recognized that short-term rental is an accommodation use, as evidenced by its efforts to collect the hotel tourist tax. The fact that the city attorney has allowed short-term rentals in neighborhoods where lodging uses are illegal is another reason to doubt that they can be regulated in those neighborhoods.
The city has large spaces for short-term rentals without subjecting quiet and stable neighborhoods to their operation. Several short-term rental hotels are now in the development phase. The market responds to the demand for short-term accommodation. The city must prioritize its long-term housing needs and the quality of life of its residents by enforcing its existing rules and eliminating short-term rentals from single-family neighborhoods.
Melissa Kingston is the Dallas Plan Commissioner for District 14. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
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