Recreational vehicles will not be allowed on single-family lots under upcoming code changes
Tuesday, October 31, 2023 Written by Joe Clifton
When the City Council considers changes to the land development code in December, while they will discuss giving property owners the option of having three units on a single-family lot and allowing tiny homes to be built on those lots, they will not consider adding recreational vehicles. into the mix.
Although the original resolution anticipated allowing recreational vehicles, city staff raised a red flag about allowing the vehicles to operate as permanent residential units, according to a memo from Jose Roig, director of the Department of Development Services.
Considering the state and federal requirements for recreational vehicles, the Department found that federal law considers them to be vehicles designed for recreational use, not residential units. As such, they are not regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Although HUD regulates mobile homes, the agency specifically says it does not regulate recreational vehicles.
The HUD definition of a recreational vehicle is: “Built on a single chassis; 400 square feet or less when measured at its largest horizontal projections; Self-propelled or permanently towable by light truck; Designed primarily not for use as a permanent residence but as temporary living quarters for entertaining or camping.” Or travel or seasonal use.
According to HUD, “Regulation of the use and occupancy of recreational vehicles is the purview of state and local authorities, not HUD.”
At the state level, recreational vehicles are regulated by the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration but are not subject to building codes, Roig’s memo says. City staff therefore expressed concern about safety implications that would need to be addressed through additional city regulations. “Staff needs to further evaluate federal and state regulations and how they are represented in recreational vehicle manufacturer specifications” so the city can develop its own regulations for permanent occupancy, the memo says.
The Development Services Department will need to consult with the Fire Department, Austin Energy and Austin Water in order to come up with their recommendations. As a result, staff recommends delaying consideration of changes to regulations for recreational vehicles while moving forward with allowing tiny homes to become part of Austin’s residential landscape.
While the Department of Development Services may not recognize RVs as the solution to providing more affordable housing, that is not the case for short-term rental agencies like Airbnb.
Checking the Airbnb website shows quite a few renovated RVs that operate as short-term rentals.
Here’s one example: “Get ready for a one-of-a-kind experience in your own 1955 Spartan trailer in Austin’s explosive Eastside neighborhood. This one-of-a-kind retreat sleeps up to 4 and is the perfect blend of vintage and modern with many amenities in a central location.” Extremely. One of the converted school buses says it’s adjacent to the greenbelt at Barton Creek.
According to Traveling Elms, billed as a resource for RV living, Texas is one of a number of states that allow people to live in their RVs full-time, “provided you register your vehicle with the county and follow local laws.” However, RVs cannot obtain a certificate of occupancy in Austin, and Airbnb does not advertise specific addresses so it is impossible for the city to easily find people who rent RVs or other homes but don’t register them.
This year, California counted 126,082 homeless people, according to a report Los Angeles Timesnearly 6,500 of that number are people living in 4,000 RVs in Los Angeles, which represents a 40 percent increase since 2018. The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to rein in RV owners by prohibiting them from parking their vehicles On public streets.
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