Short-term rentals are one of the most financially viable real estate investments you can make. Over the past decade, Airbnbs have become extremely common all over the world, making real estate investments much more accessible for everybody.
Well, almost everybody. Fort Worth, TX has been cracking down on Airbnb regulations and are on the brink of making successful short-term rentals much more difficult to establish and maintain.
What is a short-term rental?
If you’ve ever stayed at an Airbnb, the odds are very high that that was a short-term rental.
In Fort Worth, a short-term rental is any residential property available for rent for up to 29 days at a time. Basically, for a rental to be considered short-term in Fort Worth, the guest cannot stay for longer than a month. It is important to look at your local government’s definition of what is considered short term because it can vary from city to city.
fort worth's current regulations
Short-term rentals are allowed in Fort Worth, but not in residential districts including areas zoned for single-family, two-family, and multi-family use. Short-term rentals are only allowed in mixed-use zones and commercial or industrial zones with a Certificate of Occupancy from the Development Services Department.
All of that is to say that short-term rentals are not allowed in purely residential neighborhoods.
If you look at the reasoning behind these rules on the city’s website, it’s clear that they have good intentions. They want to protect neighborhoods from commercial lodging, preserve tourism in a “balanced way,” keep residential houses available on the market, and collect Hotel Occupancy Tax from legal short-term rentals.
These have been the rules in Fort Worth for a long time, but the city has never been super strict about these regulations. Because of this, you’ll find a lot of short-term rentals in single-family zones.
airbnb horror stories
At a recent city council meeting about the issue, citizens were allowed to come in and voice their opinions on Airbnbs and Fort Worth’s regulations.
A handful of people shared stories about living next to an Airbnb and how awful it is. The main complaint is that the guests staying at the property will throw parties that get out of hand, resulting in nights of loud music and beer bottles everywhere.
To me, this is an incredibly valid complaint. It would be horrible to live next to a house that is constantly throwing parties, making a huge mess, and just generally being obnoxious.
However, I don’t think the solution is to heavily regulate Airbnbs.
On the flip side, there were also a couple Airbnb hosts at the city council meeting who shared that their short-term rental is their primary source of income and how when the neighbors have family come into town, they really like that their family can rent out the house next door. They also noted that they are constantly keeping up the house because they’re always renting it out. Essentially, they’re always having to sell it to someone so they need to keep it in great condition.
All of this is incredibly valid. There are very real pros and cons to short-term rentals in residential areas. They can bring great value, but they can also bring some obnoxious tenants.
airbnb and the housing shortage
Someone at the city council meeting also claimed that Airbnbs are affecting housing availability by taking homes off the market. At first, this seems like it could be an incredibly valid complaint against short-term rentals, especially since we have very few houses available in Fort Worth right now.
After looking into the numbers, I don’t think that short-term rentals are affecting the market in any significant way. It’s certainly not a driving factor in our housing shortage.
There are approximately 1,700 properties listed on Airbnb in Fort Worth. If we were to absorb all of these properties into the housing market, assuming that they are all in residential zones (they’re not) we’d still be about 4,000 houses short of the demand. That is a lot for a single city. As a consumer, adding these houses back into the market would not change anything.
For me, it’s pretty evident that Airbnbs are not affecting the market in any substantial way.
There’s another shortage in Fort Worth that we need to consider as well. For the past few years, Fort Worth has had a shortage of hotels. This means that for a lot of tourists coming to Fort Worth, short-term rentals were the only reason they were able to visit.
There was a host at the meeting who had been polling the guests that stayed at his rental. He asked them if they would have visited Fort Worth if there was not a short-term rental option. 61% of them said they would not.
This tells me that Airbnbs are crucial for driving tourism in the city.
fort worth's new proposals
The city knows that short-term rentals are essential. The question they want to answer is how to regulate them. They have proposed 4 options, but they are all bad.
Option 1 is to leave everything the same. Only allow Airbnbs in mixed-use zones and start cracking down on the regulations that are already in place.
Option 2 is to allow it in mixed-use and multi-family zoning. While better than not allowing Airbnbs in any residential zones, this is still not an ideal option. Airbnbs drive tourism and if we’re bringing people into the city and putting them in areas where their house could theoretically be between a mechanic shop and an apartment complex, we’re not showing them the best that our city has to offer. Wouldn’t we want to show them the best of Fort Worth?
Option 3 is to allow Airbnbs in single-family zoning if the property is owner-occupied. It would also be capped density-wise so that only 5-10% of a block could be short-term rentals. There are Airbnbs that operate like this, but I know some people would certainly prefer their stay to have a little more privacy.
Option 4 is to allow short-term rentals anywhere in the city with the catch that they can only be operated 29 days of the year. There is no way that an Airbnb can make a profit only operating a month a year. This is simply not a viable option.
As of the time this article was written, they are also taking suggestions, so don’t vote for any of these. Leave your own suggestion for something that actually makes sense.
Austin recently implemented a density restriction, meaning that only a certain number of properties can be used as short-term rentals. This seems like a great option because it allows for Airbnbs in great areas while also protecting neighborhoods from becoming purely rental areas. I would also add some sort of redundancy regulations so that short-term rentals cannot be right next to each other. Maybe one short-term rental per street or one for every 5 houses.
I also like the idea of limiting the number of people who can stay at a short-term rental property. This would ideally prevent wild parties from occurring. It could really be effective if you implement some sort of three-strike rule. If an owner lets too many people in the house, he gets a strike. If it happens two more times, he’ll can get put on probation so he’s not allowed to rent out the property for a time or he could get his renting permit taken away entirely. This would really emphasize the need for hosts to run things properly.
If you still don’t want to allow these rentals across the city, you could do something similar to Arlington. They basically drew a rectangle around their sports arenas and Six Flags and called that their entertainment district. Airbnbs and other short-term rentals are allowed in that district, but not anywhere else in the city. We could do something similar with areas around the Stockyards, Dickies Arena, Downtown, and TCU.
Another option would be to not do anything I just suggested and let the neighborhoods decide what they want to do. If a neighborhood has an HOA, it’s really easy. They just need to hold a vote and it’s decided. This way, the neighborhoods that are fine with Airbnbs can have them and the ones that aren’t won’t.
If you want high-quality short-term rentals to be easily accessible throughout Fort Worth, let the city know HERE. Let your voice be heard because it can really make a difference.
If you have any questions, want to know more, or would like to buy or sell a property, don’t hesitate to call the number on our website. We would love to help you with all your real estate needs.
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