AUSTIN (KXAN) — As tens of thousands of people flood to Austin for major events, like Austin City Limits Music Festival and F1 racing, a majority of them staying in short term rentals (like AirBnB or VRBO) will be staying in rentals unlicensed by the City of Austin.
Despite Austin City Council chatter about how to get property owners to comply, thousands of short term rentals remain without a City-required license, according to the City’s Development Services Department. KXAN previously reported that a previous crackdown on unlicensed rentals faced legal challenges.
As of Thursday, the department said there are 2,201 active short term rental licenses, “ranging from single-family to multi-family residences.”
While the City of Austin said it doesn’t have an accurate way of tracking all short term rentals in the City, AirDNA — which has been used by the City to provide estimates to City Council previously — estimates there are more than 11,000 total short term rentals in Austin.
During major events like ACL and F1, that number swells, Director José Roig said in a briefing to some city council members last year.
It’s a story KXAN covered almost exactly a year ago and the numbers haven’t changed much since. In 2022, the City estimated it had just short of 2,000 active licenses.
“Getting short term rental operators to register their properties is a challenge for so many different communities. You have to make it easy for operators to do that and so far the city hasn’t fully developed their program,” said Matt Curtis, founder of Smart City Policy Group.
Curtis — an Austin expert on best policy surrounding short term rentals — said cities with high compliance rates typically have low registration fees, a strong engagement program so property owners know they need to be permitted and sturdy compliance.
“Trying to make sure that those who aren’t registered either get registered or they’re gonna get fined,” Curtis explained. He pointed to San Antonio as an example.
The City of San Antonio told KXAN it has 3,240 active short term rental licenses, more than 1,000 more than Austin, though they have fewer overall total listings. AirDNA data shows San Antonio has roughly 6,000 overall rental listings.
“Code Compliance remains committed to working with our community to protect quality of life for those who live in and visit Austin. We encourage people with code concerns to report them to Austin 3-1-1,” a spokesperson for Austin’s Development Services Department wrote.