Hurricane Relief Measures: STRs, Occupancy Limits, Zonings

Chris, thank you for initiating this discussion.

We have two established practices for making official FAN statements.

First, a discussion and specific proposed resolution in this forum, followed by a supermajority vote of the membership in favor of the resolution, results in FAN officially adopting the resolution and communicating it.

Second, we may communicate positions grounded entirely in the FAN vision or prior positions of FAN adopted in the manner described above. If the position will be communicated formally to city officials, the board will generally take a vote to affirm that it, in fact, goes no further than the mandate from prior adopted positions.

I would suggest a statement that restates prior FAN positions on STRs and occupancy and simply points out that implementing them now, even if just as a temporary measure, would be particularly timely and important given the emergency situation.

Stated in this way, FAN could quickly issue the statement after a vote of the board. The board is actually voting now on a resolution, but I believe it goes further than our mandate, so I have voted against it.

I really like the idea. Since it’s an issue that might require a quick response I’m ok with the board approving it since it seems consistent with issues that FAN has previously voted on, appears to be consistent with our vision statement, and these issues would really help people in need if they were implemented.

If the board does approve the statement, I think it’d be great to have a sentence or two after each one of the 3 issues that says 1) The reason or reasons why each issue is preventing evacuees/refugees from coming here and possibly refer to the overall impacts of the policies 2) How each issue aligns with FAN and what we’ve previously voted on - for example for STRs the membership took a position opposing a ban on STRs, occupancy limits goes against the FAN value of welcoming new residents into our neighborhoods and affordability and was related to the “Housing Type Diversity” resolution, and the fast track issue would help achieve our “Housing Type Diversity” resolution also where we call for “FAN stands for an inclusive Austin that welcomes people of all socioeconomic backgrounds throughout the city. When our policies limit the amount and diversity of housing, we effectively segregate our communities, preventing all but the privileged few from living in the highest-demand neighborhoods. We strive for diversity to be a defining character common to all our neighborhoods.” - Something in the wording of that resolution could be used to help.

It’d be great to have the statement as short as possible and if there’s a closing statement I think we should include something like “This statement was approved by the Friends of Austin Neighborhoods board, made due to its alignment to our bylaws, goals, and previous membership votes” to make sure there’s no confusing that the wording of the statement wasn’t voted on by the membership.

@chris78701 If the board approves of the statement, would you be willing to create the draft statement with more detailed information fleshed out?

I believe the way FAN approaches, purely from an operational perspective, this resolution reflects on the soul of the organization. Issuing the statement as written would go far beyond our mandate, violate previous board agreement on how to operate, and undermine the credibility and value proposition of the organization.

I would also urge folks to look at the Votes page on the FAN website for the history of adopted FAN positions. We do not have an adopted position on multi-family housing (except for triplexes and quadplexes), and we do not have a position on occupancy limits (except for a minor bullet point in our resolution opposing restrictions on short-term rentals).

We have an adopted position opposing restrictions on short-term rentals. We should stick to that mandate.

Occupancy limits, unit caps, and STR bans are all inherently at odds with our Vision / Principles ; each is inherently at odds with at least the spirit of at least some vote we’ve taken, and I think it’s clear to anyone who’s been watching this organization, inside or outside, that we have strong objections to all three.

This is like if an organization centered on fighting Jim Crow in the '50s were worried about taking a position on drinking fountains specifically without a full vote of the membership.

If we don’t think this statement and other natural extensions of our existing platform fall squarely within our overall mandate, I think the real problem is that we need to better define and articulate our mandate. Fundamentally, I’m skeptical of the view that we were elected to leadership positions in order that we might refuse to lead.

I think we’ve mostly missed the boat on this one in particular by now. It’ll likely be stale when we come to consensus as a board, and forget about trying to get a full vote done.

Curious what members think: should we have the scope to respond to things like this and advocate for your beliefs in an opportunistic fashion? Or, should everything we say or decide to do as an organization be subjected to a lengthy vote process? There’s a tradeoff between efficiency and purity of process here. How do you all think we should balance it?

[S]hould everything we say or decide to do as an organization be subjected to a lengthy vote process?

Now that statement is a bit of hyperbole and a straw man. No one said “everything we say or decide to do” should be subjected to a lengthy vote process. The established practice of prior boards, and what was even emphasized during the last board elections, was that the convention (not in the by-laws) is for the board to make a lot of important strategic and operational decisions but to submit public policy positions to a vote of the membership.

The funny thing is that being “efficient” in the case of this particular resolutions means the board, in a top-down fashion, quite clearly deviating from the will of the membership on at least one point.

Let’s take each of the items in this proposed resolution that the board is presumptuously deciding without a vote of the membership.

  • Occupancy limits. The lengthiest debate (142 messages) with the most divergent views on this forum was on occupancy limits. It proposed supporting lifting occupancy limits (or letting stringent ones lapse.). The discussion ended, tellingly, with a different resolution altogether that did not even mention occupancy limits. There is definitely no mandate from members on occupancy limits whatsoever, and there is no issue of “efficiency” in coming to that or any other conclusion.
  • Short-term rentals.This one is easy. The membership has voted to oppose restrictions on short-term rentals. It is by no means “inefficient” for leaders of the organization to point this fact out and note how timely it would be to suspend those restrictions.
  • Multifamily housing supply. The membership is currently voting on a CodeNEXT resolution that would call for “small apartment complexes . . . throughout all neighborhoods.” Someone could have brought such a resolution to a vote long ago, setting the stage for a situation similar to short-term rentals, where leaders of the organization could point to that vote and note how timely it would be to suspend restrictions on multi-family housing. So the “efficiency” issue is an illusion. The real issue was failure to be pro-active on a position that you and I might argue FAN should have taken long ago.

As for Jim Crow laws and drinking fountains, you stole that analogy from me :sunglasses:. In the case of picking and choosing where different forms of housing are allowed, and therefore where different kinds of people are welcome, the analogy demonstrates an important point, in my opinion. But reasonable people who are not segregationists can certainly disagree about short-term rentals, what the appropriate limits on occupancy may be (if any), and whether specific targets for multifamily housing are wise.

FAN supports sensible regulations on STR’s. That is a quote from the first sentence of the FAN STR resolution.

How does that fit with a proposal to suspend the STR ordinance? Does it mean unregulated free for all? Maybe the idea would be supported, but at this point seems untested.

As much as I am on record being a big fan of STR’"s, and big opponent of Austin’s occupancy limits, I question whether the Board is empowered to make statements as suggested on either, at this point. It is not just FAN"s vision many relate to vs. ANC, it’s also the inclusiveness of participation in a democratic process. ANC’s (& surrogates) North Korea like tactics are increasingly causing friction in their PAC, let’s not go there.

It’s disappointing to go back and read that thread and see so many of you falling for (or at least giving the benefit of the doubt to) transparently disingenuous arguments from the anti-stealth-dorm crusaders. Honesty and transparency don’t require a destructive level of credulousness.

Yes, citations of the previous resolution on STRs would probably need to enumerate the rather lengthy list of restrictions the resolution opposed and state that those restrictions should be suspended. If someone were to do the research and find that the STR ordinance includes only those restrictions, we could without question call for the suspension of the ordinance as a whole.

This is a summary of what the newest STR Ordinance in Austin changed:

The new ordinance imposes new requirements for advertising, sets occupancy limits, places new requirements on those requesting STR licenses, and creates a process for denying or suspending a license, along with an appeal process. The ordinance also sets limits on the distance between STRs, establishes requirements related to inspections, noise and music and prohibits certain types of gatherings. Eventually, the ordinance will eliminate Type 2 short-term
rentals in residential areas.

And these are the details on the types of STRs in Austin


Type 1


(single-family, multifamily or duplex)

Owner-occupied, bungalo stype house

Type 2

Not Owner-Occupied

(single-family or duplex)

Type 3

Not Owner-Occupied


High-rise apartments


Are owner-occupied or associated with an owner-occupied principal residence

Include the rental of an entire dwelling unit


If only part of the unit, include at a minimum a sleeping room (with shared full bathroom), is limited to a single party of individuals, and the owner is generally present during the rental

Are not owner-occupied or associated with an owner-occupied principal residence

Are single-family or duplex properties

Include rental of an entire dwelling unit

Are not owner occupied

Are part of a multifamily use (apartments, condos, etc.) property

Include the rental of an
entire dwelling unit


Ownership information on your application must match the deed as recorded with the Travis County Clerk's office or Williamson County Clerk's office

The City ordinance places a cap on the percentage of STRs allowed to legally operate in each census tract of the city.

Ownership information on your application must match the deed as recorded with the Travis County Clerk's office or Williamson County Clerk's office

Owners must provide documentation of the total number of building on the property and units per building.

Owners must comply with applicable geographic caps.

Contact us for more information.

Ownership information on your application must match the deed as recorded with the Travis County Clerk's office or Williamson County Clerk's office

Per city council, Austin Code is no longer accepting applications for type 2 STRs.

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So the proposal should be to suspend the new STR ordinance, not all, with the new one being specified? Sounds like that could work
Question asked and answered - thanks!

I think some of the applicable restrictions that were outlined in the 2016 ordinance to be considered are:


(B) A short-term rental use under this section may not:
(1) include the rental of less than an entire dwelling unit;

(D )A short-term rental (Type 2) use may not be located on a lot that is within 1000 feet of a lot on which another short-term rental (Type 2) use is located unless the license:
(1) was issued on or before November 23. 2015:
(2) is not suspended after November 23. 2015: and
(3) is renewed timely.


(B) A short-term rental use under this section may not:
(1) include the rental of less than an entire dwelling unit;


(C ) Except as provided in subsection (G), the director shall issue a license under
this section if:

(3) for a short-term rental use regulated under Section 25-2-789 (ShortTerm Rental (Type 2) Regulations), no more than 3% of the singlefamily, detached residential units within the census tract of the property are short-term rental (including Type 2 and Type 1 second dwelling unit or secondary apartment) uses as determined by the Director under Section 25-2-793 (Determination of Short-Term Rental Density); and

(4) for a short-term rental use regulated under Section 25-2-790 (ShortTerm Rental (Type 3) Regulations), located in a non-commercial zoning district, no more than 3% of the total number of dwelling units at the property and no more than 3% of the total number of dwelling units located within any building or detached structure at the property are short-term rental (Type 3) uses as determined by the Director under Section 25-2-793 (Determination of Short-Term Rental Density); and

(5) for a short-term rental use regulated under Section 25-2-790 (ShortTerm Rental (Type 3) Regulations), located in a commercial zoning district, no more than 25% of the total number of dwelling units at the property and no more than 25% of the total number of dwelling units located within any building or detached structure at the property are short-terni rental (Type 3) uses as determined by the Director under Section 25-2-793 (Determination of Short-Term Rental Density); and

(G) After November 23, 2015, the director may not issue a license to operate a short-term rental use described in Section 25-2-789 (Short-Term Rental (Type 2) Regulations) except for an application received prior to September 17, 2015. In any event, the director may not issue a license pursuant to an application received after November 12, 2015.


(B) Unless a stricter limit applies, not more than two adults per bedroom plus two additional adults may be present in a short-term rental between 10:00p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

(G) A short-term rental use may not be used by more than:
(1) ten adults at one time, unless a stricter limit applies; or
(2) six unrelated adults.

PART 3. Subsection (D) of City Code Section 25-2-51 \ (Dwelling Unit Occupancy
Limit) is amended to read:
(D) Except as provided in Subsection (E), for a conservation single family residential, single family attached residential, single family residential, small lot single family, duplex residential use, or two-family residential use not more than four unrelated adults may reside on a site, in the following zoning districts:

  1. Lake Austin Residence District (LA) Zoning District;
  2. Rural Residence District (RR) Zoning District;
  3. Single Family Residence Large Lot (SF-1) Zoning District;
  4. Single Family Residence Standard Lot (SF-2) Zoning District;
  5. Family Residence (SF-3) Zoning District;
  6. Single Family Residence Small Lot (SF-4A) Zoning District;
  7. Single Family Residence Condominium (SF-4B) Zoning District;
  8. Urban Family Residence (SF-5) Zoning District; and
  9. Townhouse and Condominium Residence (SF-6) Zoning District.

PART 4. The table in City Code Section 25-2-491(C) (Permitted, Conditional, and Prohibited Uses) is amended to replace the existing reference to “Short-Term Rental” with “Short-Term Rental (Types 1 and 3)” and to reflect die following: Short-Term Rental (Type 2) is a permitted use in the following base districts:

central business (CBD)
downtown mixed use (DMU)
planned unit development (PUD)
general-retail - mixed use (GR-MU)
commercial services - mixed use (CS-MU)
commercial services - vertical mixed use (CS-V)
general retail - vertical mixed use (GR-V).

I’m having a bit of trouble finding the older ordinance for comparison though.

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I think some of the noise and “party” clauses of the newer ordinance aren’t really hindering Austin’s ability to take in evacuees.

I believe most of those sound clauses are already covered in Austin’s sound ordinances, but when they were added into this STR ordinance, the burden of compliance was moved from the rental occupant and onto the STR Licensee, with the detriment being the loss of the license.

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I have 2 devasted properties in Rockport and family in Beaumont and Orange. I am not hearing that Austin needs to place Harvey refugees. So this argument is very befuddling to me. It seems that these communities need all the products communities lacking in utilities need, bug spray, water, diapers, toilet paper, bodies to help, etc.
This feels like a very strange thread. Are we being theoretical or realistic as to real needs?

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Yes, the communities that can afford to rebuild or have chosen to stay behind definitely need supplies and manpower. They are getting those en masse right now by individual donors faster than most other state or federal agencies can provide them.

I also have family who had their destination properties ravaged in Rockport, and more friends and family are still soaking in waist deep water around Houston where I lived for 6 years, and even more still along the Texas coast where I grew up - I am very intimately tied to these stories of devastation. But I also know that my social networks are better off than a lot of other folks who have sustained damage - Folks who can’t afford vacation homes, don’t have extensive flood insurance or a social network willing to give directly to them a spare bedroom or couch, or the time and supplies it will take to rehab their homes - and that is if they even own the homes that they were living in.

And for those who do have that kind of network - their homes are unlivable, and will be for months and months. But they will need to live and to work somewhere - long-term housing plans are a requirement of most individual assistance programs.

In this thread, we’re discussing both long and short-term actions that could help evacuees find some sort of housing outside of shelters because housing is a focus of our group. There are other groups who are much more adept at providing direct relief to victims in terms of supplies and monetary donation.

If you’d like to give your time or money directly to victims via NGO’s and other grassroots responses, I’ve outlined some resources for you here:

To say that folks displaced by Harvey won’t need to have space made for them, not just in our hearts, but in our offices, on our busses, and of course in our neighborhoods, is short sighted.

After Katrina, roughly only half of the original inhabitants returned to that city. When folks did return, “[t]he mass displacement of people has left New Orleans older, whiter, and more affluent. African-Americans, children, and the poor have not made it back - primarily because of severe shortages of affordable housing.” Which means the folks who will be sticking around in Austin may have much fewer means than those who can afford to return and rehab.

@emportner Here’s a statesman article on how evacuees need housing here in Austin and all over Texas since they don’t have a place to stay, might not have the resources to afford somewhere to stay, and how people here in Austin are able to provide that.

“We would have stayed anywhere at that point.” “Tearfully, Walters said she felt guilty staying in such a nice home while so many Houstonians were struggling. “We are very blessed, because we have family and friends who are flooded in and lost everything.”

“Vacation rental websites such as Airbnb and HomeAway allow homeowners to rent rooms or entire houses on a short-term basis. But in times of crisis, this vast database of available homes can also be used as a way to find Good Samaritans willing to open their doors to house storm victims.”

Refuges need long term assistance not short Term ones. Tying their needs to our STR ordinance in my mind is really really cynical.

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There is no comparison with the loss of a 2nd home and the loss of a primary residence. There is no comparison between being insured or having no insurance to rebuild. There is help coming, certainly not for all and it is heartbreaking to actually be present with large numbers of people who have lost most, but not all and have very few resources and yet have zero intention of leaving their semi-destroyed homes. These are the people I was thinking about, as I have and continue to physically be there to see their losses and need.

I expressed a question as to whether Austin was needed to place Harvey refugees. I have received helpful answers. Questions have a legitimate place in dialogue. It would be helpful if responders could all reflect for a moment before making assumptions about one another that do nor reflect the truth.

It was not my intention to hi-jack this thread. I was unaware that the intention of the thread was exclusively for housing. I apologize for not realizing that. Thanks for posting the resources for donations on the post.

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Thank you for jumping in, Larry. You are always a voice of conscience and not about ideology.

As @Pete_Gilcrease pointed out, short-term rentals (whether provided free of charge, at a discount, or even at market rate) can be an important resource for some families forced from their homes by this tragedy.

I personally see the value and the connection between the elements of the resolution and some aspects of the humanitarian situation.

However, some people will perceive this resolution as “cynical” in the sense that it is an attempt to exploit the emotions and situation for larger political ends. And I believe that perception is accurate.

The board has tabled this vote until at least the next board meeting, where there will be a robust discussion of the core operating principles of the organization and whether the board should revisit its convention of staying strictly within the bounds of adopted positions of the membership of the organization.

It is still possible that a board member will “sponsor” this resolution and trigger a vote of the full membership.

In the meantime, I would much prefer FAN’s leadership and all members of the organization work together in the spirit of what @alyshalynn and @emportner have written about ways neighbors can help - and not exploit - the humanitarian situation.

Thank you Roger, I completely agree.