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City council adds muscle and higher permit fees to short term rental ordinance

San Antonio City Hall
Joey Palacios
San Antonio City Hall

The San Antonio City Council voted to add new enforcement mechanisms, agreements with rental platforms like Airbnb, and higher permit fees for San Antonio short term rentals (STRs) in an update to the city’s STR Ordinance on Thursday.

The city’s STR Ordinance regulates properties listed on platforms like Airbnb or Vrbo which rent out homes or rooms for 30 days or fewer.

Improving ordinance compliance was a major priority of the ordinance revisions.

One of the updates will require STR platforms to remove any listings from their sites that don’t have legitimate permit numbers associated with them. Another requires STRs to list “quiet hours” notices at their properties.

The new rules also introduce new enforcement mechanisms on ordinance violators, which include mandatory meetings for violators with the director of the city’s Development Services Department, civil enforcement with administrative hearing officers, the ability to revoke STR permits for up to three years, and the ability to revoke permits for one year for misleading or false information given by STR owners.

The council also steeply increased permit application fees for STR owners who do not live in the properties they rent out, known widely as Type 2 STRs, and for STR owners who do live in the properties they rent out, known as Type 1 STRs.

Type 2 STR owners will now have to pay $450 every three years for their permit, and Type 1 STR owners will have to pay $300 every three years. The additional permit fees will be used to hire a new code compliance officer whose sole focus will be STRs.

District 2 Councilmember Jalen McKee-Rodriguez said raising permit fees for Type 2 STR owners was a way to disincentivize them, which he said was necessary because of how they harm local residents.

“We need to make it less profitable for profit-seeking companies to take a scarce resource like housing and pimping it out as a small-scale hotel business instead of renting it to families in our community,” McKee-Rodriguez said.

District 5 Councilmember Teri Castillo said because Type 2 STRs commit the majority of ordinance violations and because they negatively impact housing supply, their fee should be higher.

“Studies also highlight that AirBnB expansions have caused a reduced supply of housing and increased housing costs,” Castillo said.

Type 2 STR owners often own multiple properties, whereas Type 1 STR owners tend to only own the single home they rent out.

Castillo pointed out that even with the increased fees, there are still other cities in Texas who charge even greater permit fees.

District 8 Councilmember Manny Pelaez said he understood some residents may be frustrated the city council hasn’t done away with STRs entirely but also made clear that they don’t have that authority.

“There’s nothing city council can do to run STRs out of town, prevent them from existing in our neighborhoods, or adopt any regulations that makes it impossible for them to exist,” he said.

A federal court overturned an Austin ordinance in 2023 because it went too far in its attempt to restrict — a ban in the case of Austin’s ordinance — Type 2 STRs.

The previous STR ordinance already had density limitations for Type 2 STRs, restricting them to only 12.5% of the total number of dwelling units on a block face in residential zoning districts, or at least one Type 2 STR on each block face regardless of density. There was no update to the ordinance’s density rules.

The STR platforms will also now begin to remit local Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) directly to the city on a monthly basis; under the previous ordinance, that responsibility belonged to property owners.

The HOT is a tax imposed on hotels and short term rentals, and the revenue is used to promote tourism, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, and the hotel industry, since tourism and the convention center are a major reason people stay in hotels and short term rentals.

The platforms already must remit state HOT to Texas under state law.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed the cost of the new Type 2 STR permit application fee. It is $450.

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