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Dallas Plan Commission Recommends STR Ban

City

Yard sign against STR's | Image by FOX 4

In the latest development in the years-long fight between municipalities and the so-called “short-term rental” industry, the City of Dallas has taken the first steps in prohibiting the practice altogether in certain zoned areas of the city.

The tension between cities, neighborhood associations, and companies like Airbnb and VRBO is not new. For years, local governments have grappled with exactly how to reconcile the rise of this industry — which has a robust market and loyal user base — with the demands and desires of local residents.

Now, the Dallas City Plan Commission has formally recommended that the city outright prohibit short-term rentals in single-family residential neighborhoods.

In a 9-4 vote on Thursday, the commission supported the prohibition, which will likely impact at least 2,000 properties throughout the city.

While cities like Austin have mostly embraced the industry and created a local regulatory framework, Dallas has largely ignored short-term rentals. Currently, there is no ordinance expressly allowing them, regulating them, or prohibiting them in Dallas.

While the commission is only advisory in scope and cannot make local policy, the move is a stark change of direction for the city.

Only five months earlier, Dallas seemed poised to follow Austin’s lead and create a regulatory framework for the industry. Now the City appears to be taking a path similar to Fort Worth and Arlington, two North Texas cities that have outlawed the practice in single-family neighborhoods.

“I don’t have any faith that regulation is the sole solution to this problem,” Commissioner Melissa Kingston said during a recent meeting.

Some commissioners were concerned that such a recommendation, and the policy that follows, could impact home-sharing and so-called “accessory dwellings,” like detached in-law suites and live-in garages, which could affect the availability of affordable housing for retirees and others on low or fixed incomes.

However, Kingston argued that short-term rentals actually cause rents and prices to rise in the communities in which they operate, citing a study by Carnegie Mellon and the University of Massachusetts.

“It’s not a secret that we have an affordable housing crisis in our city,” she claimed. “They are squeezing out the people who would live there and pushing them out farther and farther.”

Commissioner Lorie Blair resisted moving ahead with the recommendation on short-term rentals without fully contemplating the entire picture.

“I’m confused, I’m frustrated, and I’m angry,” Blair said. “I’m angry that our process sucks.”

Short-term rental owners and the Dallas Short-Term Rental Alliance spoke in favor of the industry at large and against uniform regulations which they argued are too heavy-handed.

“Why do you want to zone [short-term rentals] out of existence when 88% are good operators?” asked Lisa Sievers, a member of the Alliance and a short-term rental owner.

Those in support of the industry advocated for a regulatory framework that allows the industry to continue to operate while imposing sensible restrictions, such as requirements for the property owners to live in the residence, property inspections, and density limitations.

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