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PHOTO: State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, chairman of the Business & Commerce Committee, at a hearing on March 9. PHOTO by BOB DAEMMRICH/THE TEXAS TRIBUNE


AUSTIN — A Senate bill that would limit local government control of short-term home rentals in Texas passed out of the upper chamber Tuesday in a 21-9 vote.

Under Senate Bill 451 by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, Texas cities would be prevented from banning short-term rentals and their ability to write ordinances restricting the practice would be narrowed. Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth are among the cities that have enacted such restrictions.

Critics of the bill said it would lower property values and allow Texans to rent houses to people who might host disruptive parties and increase traffic in their neighborhoods.

Proponents say SB 451 would protect homeowners from strict local laws that infringe on property rights while still allowing a limited amount of local regulation, such as prohibitions on short-term renters housing sex offenders or selling alcohol or illegal drugs to guests.

“The bottom line is you cannot ban short-term rentals,” Hancock said Tuesday.

Among local policies that would be limited in scope by Hancock’s bill: a Fort Worth regulation that requires property owners to obtain a bed-and-breakfast permit only available to homes built before 1993 and an ordinance in Austin that has capped the number of short-term rentals with no live-in owners.

During Tuesday’s debate, several legislators expressed concerns about the effects the measure would have on their communities. State Sen. José Menendez, D-San Antonio, even proposed a failed amendment to exempt his home district from the bill.

The lower chamber’s companion to Hancock’s legislation, House Bill 2551 by state Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, was heard in the House Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday afternoon. Testimony was divided over whether short-term rentals would be better regulated at the local or state level.

Among those in favor of a state regulation was Cheri Kimbrell of Houston, who said she has rented out her house using short-term rental services to earn money.

“I depend on the rental revenue to help me support my mortgage and my high property taxes. As a single woman, this allows me to be able to afford my beloved home,” Kimbrell said during Tuesday’s committee hearing. “I pride myself on offering warm, southern hospitality that is unlike any hotel experience.”

Suzanne Suarez, an Austin resident who also said she often rents her home using services such as Airbnb, said statewide regulation would prevent cities from rescinding current ordinances regulating short-term rentals.

“While today the local ordinance is in favor of this, who’s to say they won’t change their mind tomorrow?” Suarez said. “That’s why we need the state to protect us.”

Those testifying against the bill said it was a “one-size-fits all policy.”

“The bill ignores the fact that cities have different commercial needs,” said David King. “I just think this is an unfair bill. What I’m asking is for you to let the cities have some flexibility in tailoring their short-term rental regulations so they’re more palatable to their communities.”

HB 2551 was left pending in committee Tuesday evening.

ALEX SAMUELS reports for the Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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