LEWISVILLE (CBSNewsTexas.com) — Short-term rentals like Airbnb and Vrbo continue to be a controversial issue in communities across North Texas, and Lewisville has become the latest city to enter the debate.
A neighborhood near Lake Park seems to be on the front lines of the battle. Multiple yards have signs with slogans like "HOMES not HOTELS" and "Short term rentals destroy neighborhoods."
At least half-a-dozen of the residents there spoke against short-term rentals (STRs) when the Lewisville City Council discussed the issue for the first time during a work session last week.
"It's just a matter of time until the craziness gets out of hand," said Ainsley Stelling, who is leading the Lewisville chapter of the Texas Neighborhood Coalition. They want the city to ban STRs in single-family neighborhoods, like Dallas did in June.
Stelling says three of the 20 homes on the neighborhood's two streets are now STRs.
"It's the trash, it's the noise, it's the strangers, it's the coming and going of people we don't know," she said. "They speed up and down the street. The parking."
One of the properties is owned by Tim Gorts. He says he already doesn't allow parties at the home, monitors noise levels with sensors, and limits the number of cars guests can have.
Gorts would support other reasonable regulations, as long as he can continue to operate his lakeside house as an STR.
"It's a creative option I've had to utilize because of financial difficulties," said Gorts. "I think everybody's been kind of realizing the price of milk and eggs doubled. Your electricity bills doubled. Going to the doctor's doubled."
His property is one of at least 93 whole home STRs in Lewisville, according to data the city presented from Host Compliance.
The city saw an 86% increase in short-term rentals from 2020 to 2023.
"We definitely noticed an uptick after the pandemic," said Chris McGinn, the City of Lewisville's director of neighborhood and inspection services.
Joahim Morales and his wife Ashley Almaraz bought their first home in Lewisville during the pandemic, but they quickly outgrew it.
"Ashley was the one who said, 'Why don't we go try to put it on Airbnb or another short-term rental site?'" Morales said.
He was skeptical but agreed to try it out. Morales describes the results as life changing.
"We don't come from the best backgrounds," he said. "It's helped us tremendously."
They've since grown their business to six short-term rental homes.
"It was something that I didn't know was possible," said Morales.
Now, they're paying close attention to the battle brewing over STRs in Lewisville, one of only a handful of North Texas cities without any restrictions on short-term rentals.
Others require owners to register the property and pay a hotel occupancy tax. Some cities have gone so far as to ban them from operating in certain areas.
"I think it proves that the situation is complex, especially if you look at some of the litigation that some Texas cities are dealing with," McGinn said. "So the answer is not easy."
As the city works to figure out the best way to approach STRs, concerned neighbors and STR operators want to make sure their voices are heard.
The city will hold the first public hearing on short-term rentals next month on Oct. 16. Based on that feedback and other research, staff will come up with a few different options for potential regulation to present to city council.
Short-term rentals in Lewisville, according to data from the city:
- There are 93 unique and currently advertised STRs that rent entire homes
- Fifty-six percent of owners live in Lewisville, and only 4% live outside of Texas
- In the past year, there have been 16 calls for service at 11 of the 93 STRs (0.01% of total calls)
- Fifteen of the 93 STRs had at least one code violation in the past year
- Seventy-four percent of the 93 STR homes had no calls for service or code violations
McGinn says the city plans to address the problem properties immediately through proactive engagement and continued monitoring.
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