Lewisville, Texas, had a public hearing on the problem Monday night. Some people there were wearing white shirts with the words “Houses Not Hotels” on the front to show their opposition to short-term rentals in North Texas. The meeting was the first step for people in the Lewisville Neighborhood Coalition to get an ordinance passed that would limit short-term rentals in residential areas.
Short-term rentals, or STRs, are homes that can be rented out to guests for one to ninety days. This includes homes that are offered on vacation rental websites like Airbnb and Vrbo. In the past few months, towns in North Texas like Dallas, Fort Worth, and Plano have limited them. Now people in Lewisville like Jeff Woods want to do the same thing for their city.
“Road noise, trash, and the police are all big worries,” Woods, who has lived in Lewisville his whole life, said. “We’re living in fear now; it’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop because you never know what will happen next weekend.” The Lewisville Neighborhood Coalition is a branch of the Texas Neighborhood Coalition. Woods is a member of it. His wife, Ainsley Stelling, started it three months ago.
Woods and Stelling live in an area with about 20 homes. Three of those homes are STRs, they said. Wood said that sometimes eight to sixteen people come and go from some of the homes. “I just feel trapped because these short-term rental owners have come in and set up these unregulated lodgings, so to speak, in our neighborhood, which is a single-family neighborhood that was never meant for that,” he said.
Texas charges STRs like Airbnb a 6% hotel room tax. Some people in the Lewisville Neighborhood Coalition said that STRs were like hotels and businesses because of this. But Tim Gorts, who lives in the area and rents out his home as an Airbnb when his family isn’t there, said that STRs are not at all like one-bedroom hotel rooms.
“I don’t charge the same for people who rent my house for the weekend as a little one-room Holiday Inn,” he said. “It’s meant to hold a lot of people because it’s a big property.” Gorts has been an Airbnb host for more than a year. He said that the money he makes from his STR helps his family’s income.
Some companies with the help of private equity firms have bought thousands of single-family homes to rent out. But Gorts said he’s going to share his home with people who need it. “We share the house with other people when we’re not there. This is how we pay our bills, get our medicine, and help a volunteer group,” he said. “This isn’t a big business meeting. This is where we live.
Most of the people who answered a city poll about short-term rentals (STRs) before the public hearing said they did not own one but lived close to one. 241 of the 330 people who answered were in favor of regulating, and 194 were in favor of not allowing it in private areas.
Short-term rentals in Lewisville will be talked about at a public hearing on Monday night. David Margulies, a resident, said that the Lewisville Neighborhood Coalition has asked the city attorney to meet with coalition experts to come up with a law that limits STRs, like the one in Arlington. Arlington passed two ordinances in 2019 that let short-term rentals happen in three areas: its Entertainment District, residential middle-density zones, and multi-family zones.
Margulies said that the debate about the short term isn’t just in North Texas or even the US. Some countries, like Portugal and Italy, don’t allow short-term rentals or have rules about them. “You just can’t say, ‘Oh, it’s just a few bad apples.'” “There are only a few of them,” he said. It’s a problem all over the world. So, cities are coming up with creative ways to let them live where they belong while still regulating them the same way they do other businesses.