Marfa seeks public comment on short-term rental ordinance

MARFA — Today, Thursday, October 1, Marfa City Council will hold a special meeting and workshop to hear comments on its proposed short-term rental ordinance. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. and will happen virtually, over Zoom.

This short-term rental ordinance, which will likely impose new regulations or even fees on local short-term rental housing like Airbnbs, came up at a Marfa City Council meeting earlier this month. At the meeting, Teresa Todd, the city attorney for Marfa, estimated it would take her and other city officials around three months to finalize a version of the ordinance.

But discussions of short-term rentals — and in particular, their effects on local housing and rental prices — are nothing new. Last year, the company Host Compliance estimated there were around 150 short-term rentals in Marfa, a 40% increase from 2018. And in general, the company estimates, only about 10% of short-term rentals fully comply with regulations or pay all of their hotel occupancy taxes.

The issue of short-term rentals also came up in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, where city leaders issued temporary bans on those rentals, along with hotels. And while those orders had the effect of closing local hotels, residents complained that Airbnbs were still stealthily operating outside of the law.

In April, for example, The Big Bend Sentinel reported on one Airbnb owner who was continuing to rent to visitors despite the ban. And one guest, who was visiting from Austin, said neither Airbnb nor the host ever informed her of the rules.

“I had no idea the orders were still in place,” she said. “I wouldn’t have looked into booking anything otherwise.”

Marfa has more information on attending the meeting on its website, which can be found at www.cityofmarfa.com. The identification number for the Zoom meeting is 935 8827 3000, while the passcode is 076784. Residents can also call into the meeting by dialing 346-248-7799.


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