AUSTIN

Galveston and other Texas communities that thrive on tourism are included in a bill approved Tuesday by the Texas Senate that seeks to abolish local rules prohibiting short-term rental housing.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 451 written by Sen. Kelly Hancock, a North Richland Hills Republican, 22-9.

“Since short-term renting became mainstream, thousands of Texas homeowners have chosen to use their private property as a source of income to help make ends meet,” said Hancock. “Nonetheless, a number of cities have banned the practice or are heading in that direction.

“In Texas, we still believe property rights are a foundational freedom worth protecting, and that’s what this bill does.”

The bill seeks to overturn rules in some Texas cities that prohibit where short-term rental housing can operate.

State Sen. Larry Taylor, a Galveston Republican, proposed an amendment seeking to exempt Galveston from Hancock’s bill, arguing that the island was unique and had its own fair local regulations to handle short term rentals.

Taylor’s amendment would have applied only to communities that border the Gulf of Mexico, had pre-existing regulations on short-term rental housing and had adopted resolutions saying that tourism is the central component of the economy of the city.

“These are areas that tourism is a big part of their economy,” Taylor said. “This is not a new concept in our area. A number of the cities on the coast have already adopted their ordinances. They’re supporting these STRs and want STRs.”

Taylor’s amendment failed, 18-13. Similar amendments filed to exempt Austin and San Antonio from the bill also failed. Taylor voted against the bill’s final passage.

While the bill is supported by the short-term rental companies, like Austin-based HomeAway, Galveston-area rental housing groups have objected to Hancock’s bill.

In 2015, the Galveston City Council began regulating short term rental housing, including creating a zoning category that prohibits such housing from operating in certain areas. The rules were created to protect quiet residential neighborhoods from so-called party houses.

The local advocates worry that the zoning regulation, which has been applied to only two residential neighborhoods on the island, will be obliterated by Hancock’s proposal.

Hancock’s bill would not affect ordinances regulating noise and health and safety issues, he said.

The chance still exists, as the bill is now heading for consideration by the Texas House of Representatives.

“I greatly appreciate all that Senator Taylor did for Galveston and tourism these past weeks,” said Claire Reiswerg, the president of the Galveston Rental Managers Association and the co-owner of Sand ‘N Sea Properties, a real estate and vacation rental company.

“He understood that we have an ordinance and zoning designations that work well for Galveston neighborhoods. While I’m disappointed that the Senate bill passed, I am hoping the House will recognize the importance of allowing unique communities like ours to create and maintain our own solutions.”

Coincidentally, Reiswerg and other local advocates were in Austin on Tuesday to testify about the House’s version of the short-term rental bill.

The committee left House Bill 2551, authored by Flower Mound Republican Tan Parker, pending.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

(3) comments

Diane Turski

I'm glad that Senator Taylor voted against this bill. I believe that cities should have local control over short term rentals in residential neighborhoods! I hope the House representatives will agree that local control should not be removed to appease special interest groups such as Air B&B.

Carol Hollaway

Larry Taylor was conveniently absent the day the committee over which he chairs allowed this bill to proceed to the Senate floor for voting. He could have stopped this chaos but didn't. He's no "good guy" to those of us who would rather decide our own rules and not have HomeAway have their way with our community. I hope they paid him well for this!

Carlos Ponce

Larry Taylor chairs the Education committee. The Education committee would not have seen this bill. SB 451 would go through the committee on Business and Commerce chaired by Kelly Hancock before it reached the full Senate where Larry Taylor tried to amend it..

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