I find umbrage with Michael A. Smith’s editorial castigating short-term rentals (“Austin can’t answer main short-term rental question,” The Daily News, June 12).

Five years ago, during land development regulations discussions, short-term rentals were praised for rehabbing derelict properties becoming the “best house” on the block, saving residents over $4,300 annually on property taxes, contributing over 25 percent of hotel operating tax, which helps fund multiple nonprofits on the island, and improving property values.

The state would have cut the power of the homeowners in the three Residential Only areas by rescinding the RO designation. Owner occupied rentals would have been permitted.

The cost of housing is pure economics. Taxes, insurance, mortgage and maintenance are contributory to the cost as values increase. Owning property is an investment, whether owner occupied, rental property or short-term rental. Values are market driven; it’s called free enterprise. I know of no one who desires their values to decrease and suffer a loss.

Property owners protest every year to reduce taxable value, but when it comes to selling they want the highest price possible. There’s proof island wide with the number of vacant properties, estimated at over 7,000, where owners/heirs hold on for exorbitant offers and let properties deteriorate until they fall down. Who’s questioning these owners and what do they contribute to the economics of the island?

Perhaps look at slum landlords who do little, if anything, to maintain properties. Are they willing to reduce rents to subsidize affordable housing? I doubt it.

Are second homeowners on West End included in this castigation? Is it wrong to earn income on a second home that contributes to the tax base or is it only “in town” that’s being blamed? There are those of us who have short-term rentals to subsidize our retirement and have a place for family visits. What about multi-family, condos and apartments; are their rents not market driven? Let’s take a poll of how many property owners and landlords are willing to reduce sales price and reduce rents to create affordable housing.

There are property owners who converted long-term rentals to short-term as they were tired of evicting tenants for non-payment of rents and spending thousands of dollars to repair damages. There are apartment owners who have rehabbed their properties and increased rents to have responsible tenants. Are they at fault for protecting their investment?

I also find it hard to believe there are approximately 700 non-compliant STR’s. If this is actually the case, why are they allowed to “fly under the radar.” This is an affront to those who are legally registered and paying hotel occupancy tax. Someone isn’t doing their job. Now that the local economy has improved, visitor counts are up and property values have increased, it appears those who have contributed are now being told to cease and desist.

As someone who has worked at the local and state level to protect municipal authority regarding short-term rentals and the rights of residents, I just got thrown under the bus.

Mary Branum is a resident of Galveston and president of the Short Term Rental Association of Galveston.

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(7) comments

Bailey Jones

[thumbup]

David Bloom

Well said Mary..

Michael Jozwiak

Again complaining about the lack of local service in the enforcement, but making no comment about wanting to pay for increased, more efficient service. You cannot have 'Cadillac' service at 'Chevy' prices. more enforcement would either have properties repaired or condemned, then the owners would respond. STRs have bad sides too, but still motivated by greed. Recommendations for improved municipal monitoring and enforcement requires an adequate budget, but if people and politician are adamant for low taxes, the current situation will continue.

Bailey Jones

STRs pay a 9% tax. That's at least $1K per year in lost city revenue for a typical STR. And there are 700 renegades? Do the math. Enforcement more than pays for itself.

Ron Binkley

Mary.....you nailed it! Very to the point and very understandable. I own two short term rentals in Galveston. Believe me, greed is not a factor. Most STR's don't make you rich. I purchased my first home there to be able to use when I could get down there and also provide a place to send clients and friends. I supplemented this by making it a STR. Not only am I paying my fair share of taxes, my guest are contributing the Galveston economy as well. All I hope for is that one day I will be able to pay off the mortgage and be able to afford my retirement down there.

Bailey Jones

Same strategy for me.

Pamela Kopfer

Thank you, Mary. Well said! I was out of town when the original item was posted, so had to go back and read that for context. As a person new to STR ownership, I did not feel completely thrown under the bus by it, but do think your response was appropriate -- and quite to the point. The increased/increasing cost for long term rentals has many inputs, and only one is the STR market. In fact, we could say that STR is a response to the overall market factors that drive rental costs in general. I also think that you and the author of the original opinion piece agree on one thing: there will be continuing pressure to move control away from local government. In the case of Galveston, that would be a big mistake. I really appreciate the leadership you and STROAG provide. You, and this group promote a reasonable, respectful approach to vacation rental on the island.

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