North Vancouver could legalize short-term rentals

The District of North Vancouver could open the door to legalized short-term rentals, like Airbnb and VRBO.

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

Council voted unanimously on Monday (May 9) to launch public consultations on a series of bylaw changes that govern the types of things allowed in single-family neighborhoods.

Short-term rentals are not permitted in the district, although there are around 500 in operation during peak tourist season, Coun. Mathew Bond noted.

Demand for short-term rentals fell during the pandemic, but has risen again. In conversations about the affordable housing crisis, short-term rentals are often cited as an unwelcome guest, as they are seen as occupying what could be stable rental housing for local residents.

Mayor Mike Little recognized the need to strike a balance.

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

Specifically, District staff will focus their consultation on whether short-term rentals should be allowed in secondary suites and coachhouses, in multi-family buildings, and whether tenants should be allowed to obtain licenses for short-term rentals (with owner’s permission).

Also on the table is a proposal to increase the maximum size allowed for accessory suites in homes. Council comments suggested there would be little controversy in allowing larger rentals in single-family residences.

Com. Lisa Muri, however, suggested that it might be time to bring the basement suites above ground. The lack of sunlight in basement apartments leads to a “horrible way of life”, she said.

“I don’t know if we really want, as a council, as human beings, to allow underground suites to continue to be built in the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s not a pleasant experience to live in one of them.”

The district will also consider public thoughts on plans to encourage more “responsive” infill developments in single-family hoods. This can take the form of small infill areas, allowing duplex, triplex and quadruplex homes, or allowing more than one accessory rental home per lot, as the City of North Vancouver already does.

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

“When you see them being built all over the community, they can be extremely overbearing and so I’m always careful with that word ‘sensitive.’ than in planned, transit-oriented development in city centers,” he said.

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