Dallas, Texas – In the wake of an intense deliberation, as well as unforeseen developments on Wednesday, pertaining to the issue of short-term rental properties in Dallas, City Manager T.C. Broadnax announced a conclusive City Council vote scheduled for the following Wednesday. The vote aims to determine the fate of short-term rentals, colloquially known as STRs, within single-family districts, potentially resulting in an outright ban.
This statement emerged after an arduous, four-year struggle over the status and regulation of STRs within Dallas—a conflict that was further ignited by unexpected complications on Wednesday.
The aforementioned complications arose when Chief Planning Officer Julia Ryan, a prominent member of the administrative staff, proposed her recommendation—a move that deviated significantly from the suggestions put forth by the Dallas City Plan Commission and the preferences of certain council members.
Calls for an outright ban on STRs surged in response to an incident involving gunfire at a party house situated in the Midway Hollow neighborhood on Saturday night. Residents captured footage of the ensuing chaos on the streets, a spectacle reportedly linked to a nearby short-term rental. This incident motivated several local residents to voice their concerns as public speakers during Wednesday’s city hall meeting.
“You are tasked with keeping our neighborhoods safe. The neighborhoods are not safe when short-term rentals are allowed to operate in them,” Midway Hollow resident Sonya Hebert said, as reported by NBC DFW.
Despite Hebert’s concerns, data from the city suggests a more complex reality. Although STRs are linked to a higher number of calls to local emergency services such as 311 and 911 compared to other residential properties, approximately 80% of STRs remain complaint-free.
The hosts of these short-term rentals, who claim to conduct their businesses without causing any disruptions, have requested permission to continue their operations. They argue that they have duly registered with the city and are paying the required hotel taxes, thereby complying with local laws. Their adherence to these regulations has led them to believe that their businesses are fully legal, complicating the potential blanket ban on STRs in the city.
“You never imply in anything I’ve read this was temporary or could be stopped or in the future,” STR host Karen Eubank said.
The recommendation of the plan commission is to categorize short-term rentals, or STRs, as a form of lodging. This classification, as per the commission’s stance, would make them unsuitable for Dallas neighborhoods identified as single-family residential zones.
Councilman Chad West sought professional guidance from Chief Planning Officer Julia Ryan on this matter, to which she responded with a decidedly different approach.
“The districts permitted would be all of them. The zoning ordinance would not be driving the land use on that,” Ryan said.
“Not as a residential or commercial use but a new use, and it would be allowed everywhere,” West asked.
“Correct,” Ryan said.
Simultaneously, Ryan expressed her intent to fine-tune regulations regarding short-term rentals, with specific focus on stipulating permissible locations for such operations.
This new approach significantly diverges from the course city staff were directed to follow during earlier phases of the protracted debate.
“Staff did make their recommendation, and we as a body said, we reject those, go this different recommendation,” Councilman Omar Narvaez said.
Narvaez recollected prior discussions with Ryan, where she suggested that STRs should fall under the category of lodging, as opposed to being classified as residential use. This new trajectory from Ryan seems to present a departure from her initial stance.
“I’m just going to speak for myself, that’s why I’m perplexed right now,” Narvaez said.
Other opponents of STRs in residential neighborhoods have pushed for the lodging definition.
“I believe in strong private property rights but that has to include the rights of the neighbors. And I don’t see how single-family neighborhoods should include commercial hotels,” Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said.
Tasked with a multitude of duties, Dallas’ code enforcement personnel would likely face an escalation in short-term rental (STR) enforcement responsibilities should new regulations be introduced. Despite these potential challenges, enforcement officials have indicated their preparedness to adopt this augmented role within a six-month timeframe, albeit acknowledging the demands of the task.
Nevertheless, personnel constraints are anticipated during evening and overnight hours, periods that traditionally see the majority of complaint incidents. This could pose a formidable obstacle in maintaining effective enforcement.
Councilman Chad West has openly advocated for the inclusion of multi-family neighborhoods in the areas where STR operations would be permitted in Dallas. This position adds another dimension to the ongoing deliberation around the suitable locations for STRs within the city.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax has confirmed that a final vote on the issue will take place next Wednesday, in tandem with an official recommendation from the staff.
Broadnax also revealed that Mayor Eric Johnson had expressed his belief that council members on the verge of departing office due to term restrictions should have the opportunity to contribute their votes to this issue. This sentiment is especially poignant considering the four-year-long debate that has surrounded the topic.
As the council prepares to vote, the potential for further debate looms. Amendments to the proposed plan will be subject to council votes, either in favor or against, once the item is officially listed on the voting agenda.