You can book a luxury apartment in Austin for a few nights; why tenants say it puts them off
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Kevin Atherton likes being near downtown.
For more than three years he lived in Sentral East Austin.
“It was right in the heart of… East 6e Street,” Atherton explained. “Had great views of downtown – top floor, you know, absolutely loved my place.”
Atherton said he had hoped to continue living there, but when he tried to renew his lease, he explained that he had been told that his unit was being converted into a short term rental (STR).
“You can go to Hotels.com or Expedia and you know, rent one of those rooms for the night like a hotel room,” Atherton said. “So basically, it really made me curious why they would want to turn, you know, all of these livable units in the city of Austin into these hotel rooms when you know, we’re in a housing shortage. “
Of about 250 Sentral East Austin apartments, 50 are converting to short-term rentals, Sentral Regional General Manager Kristin Parfrey said.
“With the growing number of workers who are no longer tied to offices, the demand for these flexible lifestyles has increased, and Sentral is meeting this growing demand,” Parfrey explained in an emailed statement. “Sentral offers rental terms ranging from several weeks to 12 months.”
KXAN investigators found several Sentral East Austin apartments for a few nights listed on sites like Hotels.com.
“We really just have people coming in and out of the building, different people day to day, you don’t know your neighbors,” said Lauren Wolf, who has lived in the apartment since 2020. “As a single woman living alone, it’s really scary to know that anyone has access.
Wolf said she decided to live in Sentral East Austin after learning from management that the complex did not offer short-term rentals like other apartments.
“I have a lease that didn’t specify that,” Wolf said. “It’s hard to tell if someone is a resident, a short-term renter, or just trying to gain access.”
Sentral said the same security measures are in place regardless of rental conditions.
Council member reviewing ordinance
The Austin City Council modified the original short term rental order in 2016 to include apartments and condos.
All short term rentals are required to have a license and renew it annually.
As of August 8, the city had 567 active licenses for this type of apartment and condo rental.
Sentral units are not included in the data. A spokesperson for the Austin Code Department said their licenses had expired. Sentral explained that the renewal is currently underway.
Member of the Council Pio Renteria whose district includes east Austin, where Sentral is located, said he was hearing growing concerns from residents about the “rapid proliferation” of short-term rentals.
“So-called ‘party houses’ in single-family neighborhoods that receive large groups of visitors generate significant quality of life issues for neighboring residents; apartment complexes deciding they can make more money by maximizing the number of units they rent out as STRs than by renting to people who actually live there; the general security and nuisance concerns that unsurprisingly accompany a constant influx of strangers into our residential neighborhoods; the impact of having so much of our already limited housing stock reserved for non-residents on rental prices. These issues are real, they are concerning and they are growing at an alarming rate,” Renteria said in a statement.
He added that while the city has ordinances that regulate short-term rentals, the reality is that enforcement actions are limited by state law caps on the amount of fines the city can impose. and the market conditions that make the short-term rental business in Austin lucrative.
“Given the growing nature of this problem, I believe it is time for the City Council to begin to re-examine our policies regarding STR regulations before these issues spiral even further out of control and I will request that a public briefing on the current status of STRs in Austin will be included on next month’s Housing Committee agenda and planning for this,” Renteria said.
Find a new home
KXAN investigators asked the city for the number of short-term rental violations and the results, but that data was not readily available.
Sentral said it works closely with residents whose apartments may be affected by offering comparable apartments and rental terms.
“One of Sentral’s core values is customer satisfaction. We get great sentiment scores from our residents,” Parfrey said.
Atherton said he had hoped to go month-to-month, but with his unit converting to short-term rental, that wasn’t an option.
He has moved and is still looking for permanent accommodation.
“If we need more hotel rooms in the city of Austin, you know, let’s build more hotels,” Atherton explained. “I don’t see any benefit to taking habitable units off the market and turning them into these hotel rooms when people are really struggling to find housing.”