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Council hears recommendation for Airbnb, other short-term rentals

A task force that was created after a directive from city council has recommended the creation of an ordinance that lawfully allows short-term rentals to operate in residential areas.

The guidance comes months after council members questioned why residents were allowed to rent out rooms and other properties on sites like Airbnb without paying hotel occupancy taxes. The issue came up during a January council meeting during which a woman wanted to rezone her house as a bed and breakfast. Her request was denied by the council.

However, current Airbnb listings show that more than 300 short-term rentals are listed in Corpus Christi. Many of these people, whether they know it or not, are violating city code.

“Your Unified Development Code actually prohibits the rental of residential property for periods of time less than 30 days in most areas,” said Justin Braigel, who is a member of the Corpus Christi Short-Term Rental Task Force. Braigel is also general counsel for the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association.

He also told council that another reality is that short-term rentals aren’t going anywhere. Because the city lacks the manpower to enforce the current code, the task force recommends a two-pronged plan to create a legal pathway for these rentals.

The first part would amend city code to lawfully allow short-term rentals in residential parts of the city. The other would create an ordinance with several provisions, including one that establishes a permitting process that would require those renters to show verification that they pay hotel occupancy taxes.

However, Mayor Joe McComb says the city may be putting revenue over the principle of single-family residential zoning areas with this move.

“You can…have 4 or 5 people spend the night regularly months on end, if they’re just doing it 3 or 4 nights in a row and you’re single family residential. And y’all are fine with that, as long as we’re collecting the taxes and the hotel/motel out of it,” McComb said during the discussion.

However, the task force says that concern is why the recommendation includes an amendment to the Unified Development Code. Braigel said that revision would give city council the power to decide where short-term rentals can operate.

Braigel also said this issue is one that already has the attention of state lawmakers. During the last legislative session, the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association worked toward the defeat of a bill that would have preempted city ordinances on short-term rentals. Braigel says city leaders should take the opportunity to act on this now with legislators “chomping at the bit” to regulate this industry statewide.

“I think that it would be a good idea to have at least a reasonable regulation in place that shows the legislature that Corpus Christi understands this issue and has taken steps to protect property interests on both sides,” Braigel argued.

Tuesday’s agenda item was only a presentation. It’s unclear when any action would be taken. Both council members and the task force say more public input is needed before any type of decision is made.

Nikela Pradier

Nikela Pradier

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