A conference committee Saturday voted to strip an amendment that would have blocked cities from regulating short-term rentals like Airbnb, all but killing the measure with less than two days left in the legislative session.
The move comes during a legislative session in which lawmakers have otherwise been willing to overrule local ordinances — including regulations for ride-hailing services.
Senate Bill 451 by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, aimed to prevent Texas cities from banning short-term rentals and rein in their ability to write ordinances restricting the practice. Austin and Fort Worth are among the cities that have enacted such restrictions.
The Senate passed Hancock’s bill, but both SB 451 and a similar House bill languished in the House without receiving committee votes.
Hancock later tried to revive his bill by adding it as an amendment to House Bill 2445, a measure to regulate the use of the hotel occupancy taxes collected in each municipality. But the conference committee stripped it back out, and with the legislative session ending Monday, only extraordinary measures could revive it.
Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, said Hancock’s measure would have a major impact on cities where restrictions on short-term rentals are already in place.
“Cities support reasonable rules about short-term party houses because of the effect they can have on neighboring home values,” he said.
Hancock declined to comment on the status of his bill. In a previous statement, Hancock said passage of his legislation would protect Texans’ private property rights and boost the state’s travel and tourism industry.
Critics of the bill said it would allow Texans to rent their homes to people who might host disruptive parties and increase traffic in their neighborhoods. Between October 2012 and August 2015, the city of Austin received 252 complaints about short-term rentals, according to an Austin Code Department report. Twenty-three of those complaints were about noise or parking, and 110 were about alleged illegal activity, including pollution.
Proponents said SB 451 would protect homeowners from strict local laws that infringe on property rights while still allowing local regulations that limit or prohibit short-term rentals. Under the bill, local governments could still prohibit short-term renters from housing sex offenders or selling alcohol or illegal drugs to guests.
The disagreement over whether the bill would help or hurt Texas tourist cities is what led to its demise, Urban Affairs Committee member Jarvis Johnson, D-Houston, told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday. He said the measure was likely going to face opposition from both Democrats and Republicans.
“This was not going to be an easy bill. On both sides, you had people who were for it and against it,” Johnson said. “This was not a party-line bill. At the end of the day, you can’t infringe on people’s property rights and values, and you can’t infringe on people’s ability to earn a living.”
Disclosure: The Texas Municipal League has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.