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District of North Van to hold public hearing for short-term rentals

At last count, there were more than 800 illegal short-term rentals in the district. Is it time to legalize and regulate them?
District of North Vancouver council will soon take the public’s direction on whether to legalize and regulate short-term rentals like Airbnb. | SrdjanPav E+ / Getty Images

Update: The public hearing for the short-term rentals bylaw is scheduled for Oct. 10.

Is it time to roll out the welcome mat for short-term rentals like Airbnb in the District of North Vancouver, or tell them to start packing their bags?

The public will soon have their say on a suite of proposed bylaw changes that could legalize and regulate short-term rentals.

Currently, STRs aren’t permitted in the district, but the last count by district staff in May found 832 of them, 85 per cent of which were for entire homes.

Council has been contemplating rule changes intended to give the district greater control over the issue.

Under the proposed rules, potential hosts would only be granted a licence if they are offering their own principal residence for short-term rentals. The rule would also apply to secondary suites, so hosts could not offer basement apartments or coach houses unless they live in them.

Anyone hoping to offer their home will have to have one off-street parking space available, provide their guests with an emergency contact and have their home meet safety standards.

The bylaws would also create new fines for anyone operating outside the bylaw and a new three per cent tax, with revenues from the program being used to step up enforcement.

When it was debated at council July 24, Coun. Jim Hanson said he was satisfied that the principal residence rule would prevent short-term rentals from eating into what would otherwise be long-term rental housing stock.

“If in fact we’re dealing with properties that people live in, they’re not going to rent those properties out for long-term rentals because they live in them,” he said. “I applaud the simplicity of the proposal and I do believe that we’re all going to be better off when we bring vacation rentals out of the shadows and legalize and regulate them in a way which is manageable for all concerned.”

Coun. Jordan Back also said he felt the proposed rules struck the right balance in benefiting the local economy without exacerbating the housing crisis.

“We have a lack of hotel rooms in the district and across the North Shore, so short-term rentals certainly help fill a need there. But at the same time, we don’t want them to have a negative impact on long-term rental housing, which we have very little of in the district as well,” he said.

Mayor Mike Little said he would keep an open mind through the public hearing, but as it stands right now, he wouldn’t support STRs.

“I think it goes the wrong direction. I think that commodifying our housing for short-term rentals is a mistake that we’ll regret in future,” he said, adding later “I don’t think anyone around this council wants to accidentally put a target on long-term rentals in the community.”

In the end, council voted 5-2 to advance the proposed bylaw changes to the next step and schedule a public hearing, with Little and Coun. Betty Forbes opposed.

Couns. Herman Mah and Lisa Muri were not present for the meeting.

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