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Much disputed short term rentals ordinance up for vote this week

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It's no secret Austin's a destination city, but where those tourists stay is causing a stir among neighbors.

An ordinance up for vote at council Thursday would outline guidelines for short-term rentals, or homes that are rented out to tourists looking for an alternative to hotels. The biggest gain for the city is getting hotel tax off every overnight stay.

Several major hotels plan to dot the Austin skyline within the next couple years, but vacation rental business HomeAway co-founder Carl Shepherd says today's tourists are looking for options.

"Most people who are renting this way in the city of Austin right now do pay the taxes,” he said. “People who aren't probably just don't know they're supposed to."

Austin's Jerry Rusthoven's spent the last two years working out the details of the ordinance. If passed, he says every short-term rental will have to register with the city.

"That would give us an idea of who all is doing it, and we could check those records against our records to make sure who's paying their tax," Rusthoven said.

Not everyone's on board with the idea. A rally outside HomeAway headquarters earlier this month aimed to address concerns about the ordinance.

"We want tourism in Austin, but not if it threatens schools, affordability and neighborhoods," Tom Nuckols with Protect Austin Neighborhoods said.

Nuckols says low child-to-family ratios could put some Central and South Austin neighborhoods in jeopardy of losing their public schools.

"For every commercial short-term rental that owns a house there, that's one less house a family with children can live in," Nuckols said.

Rusthoven says the city's working with Austin ISD so it can minimize harm on families that already call the neighborhoods home.

Shepard says the idea of short-term rentals would impact local schools simply isn’t correct.

"I don't know what they are looking at,” he said. “There is no data--even in the City Auditor's report for Austin, would indicate that that is prove-ably true."

The ordinance limits short-term rentals to three percent of homes. The rentals will be first-come, first-served, and then broken down by zip code.

You can tell the city council your thoughts on short-term rentals at a public hearing this Thursday. It's on the agenda to start sometime after 4 p.m.

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