City leaders will research rental housing

Published 10:09 am Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Austin City Council is hitting the books when it comes to rental housing.

The council voted to allow Council Members Jeff Austin and Judy Enright to further research rental housing issues with city staff during its Monday work session to see whether the city needs a rental ordinance.

Enright pushed the proposal as a means to breaking the council’s deadlock on solving numerous rental housing issues. The council has discussed rental housing for years and nearly passed a landlord registration ordinance in 2011, though council members voted the measure down despite support from the local landlord’s association.

Yet the council’s actions in 2013 and at a recent rental housing forum caused council members to re-examine potential solutions.

“We’re never going to be able to sit and discuss this at length without doing some study,” Enright said.

Enright has advocated for a rental ordinance in the past, but Austin opposes a potential ordinance as he believes the city has policies in place to deal with the issue. Enright invited Austin to research the issue with her after the two shared similar wishes to clean up Austin’s poor rental housing.

Local landlord Peter Grover requested to sit in on the research sessions, but the council denied his suggestion. Grover, a former city council member, has urged the council to consider other measures beside a rental ordinance in recent months.

Council members say they would have to get a tenant and form a committee if Grover was allowed to sit in to get a balanced perspective. In addition, the council has heard from plenty of landlords on the issue in recent years.

“It just keeps getting dragged out and we can’t come to a decision,” Austin said.

Mayor Tom Stiehm said further research would help, as a recent housing survey showed Austin will need 280 more rental units in the community by the year 2020 to keep up with its population growth.

“That’s our No. 1 need in town,” he said during the meeting. “We need good housing.”