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District of North Van looks to legalize short-term rentals

The District of North Vancouver may be opening the door to legalized short-term rentals, like Airbnb and VRBO.
airbnb listings web
A screengrab shows available Airbnb listings in North Vancouver, April 1, 2022

The District of North Vancouver may be rolling out the welcome mat for legalized short-term rentals, like Airbnb and VRBO.

Council voted unanimously Monday (May 9) to start public consultations on a suite of bylaw changes that govern what kinds of things are allowed in single-family neighbourhoods.

Short-term rentals are not permitted in the district, although there are about 500 operating at peak tourist season, Coun. Mathew Bond noted.

Demand for short-term rentals dropped off during the pandemic but has been on the uptick again. In conversations about the affordable housing crisis, short-term rentals are often cited as an unwelcome guest because they are seen to take up what could be stable rental housing for local residents.

Mayor Mike Little acknowledged the need to find balance.

“We want to be able to defend that space for people who need long-term rental housing in our community but at the same time, I think there is a place for short-term in a well-managed, well-regulated environment to make sure that we have options for tourists coming to our community,” he said, noting several of the North Shore’s cheaper hotels had been lost to redevelopment.

Specifically, district staff will be focusing their consultation on whether short-term rentals should be allowed within secondary suites and coach houses, within multi-family buildings, and whether renters should be permitted licences for short term rentals (with owner permission).

Also on the table is a proposal to increase maximum allowable size for secondary suites within homes. Comments from council suggested there would be little controversy in allowing larger rentals within single-family residences.

Coun. Lisa Muri, however, suggested it may be time to bring basement suites above ground. The lack of sunlight in basement apartments results in a “horrible way to live,” she said.

“I'm not sure if we really want to, as a council, as human beings, allow subterranean suites to continue to be built in the district,” she said. “It's not a pleasant experience to live in one of them.”

The district will also take the public’s thoughts on plans to encourage more “sensitive” infill developments in single-family 'hoods. That may take the form of small lot infill areas, allowing duplex, triplex and fourplex homes, or allowing more than one accessory rental home per lot as the City of North Vancouver already does.

Little expressed some skepticism about that, noting that while some forms of infill housing truly are sensitive to their surroundings, others are not.

“When you see them built out throughout the community, they can be extremely overbearing and so I'm always cautious about that word ‘sensitive.’ It's a euphemism to try to make it easier to accept infill into single-family neighbourhoods, rather than into planned transit-oriented development in town centres,” he said.

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