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A Central Lonsdale apartment complex has been advertising units available for short term rentals, despite short term rentals like Airbnb not being permitted in the City of North Vancouver.

In 2015, the city approved the demolition and rezoning of two old walk up apartments on the 100 block of East 21st Street for a 107 unit, all rental six storey apartment building. The city allowed the developer, North Lake Ventures, to build an additional 27,670 square feet of bonus density in exchange for delivering permanent, purpose built rental housing.

Last week, the Sundance Apartments building had a sign out front advertising short term rentals available. And the company’s website listed suites for rent from $150 to $200 a night and bookings on a monthly basis.

But the building’s manager, who introduced herself as Ali, said they are not offering nightly stays.

The “short term” on the sign referred to leases of less than a year, like six or eight months.

“But not less than that,” Ali said. “We changed the sign already. It was a miscommunication.”

As for the website, Ali said she hadn’t seen it in six months.

“I have to check it out,” she said.

Michael Epp, the city’s director of planning said the city wasn’t aware of Sundance Apartments’ short term offerings but that the city would be looking into it.

“This is clearly not what we had in mind,” Epp said. “The concept of renting units for $200 a night within a rental apartment building is not consistent with the city’s zoning bylaw.”

The city’s aim for density bonusing for rental is to add to the supply of secure rental housing for residents, not to provide short term accommodations, he added, saying the city takes the matter seriously.

“We have now been in touch with the owner, who has removed the reference to short term rentals from their marketing materials. We are continuing to monitor, and will act if it is apparent that nightly rentals are being offered,” he said.

Cities should be on guard for short term rentals, especially if they are eating into purpose built rental, said Karen Sawatzky, a researcher who did her SFU urban studies master’s thesis on the impact of short term rentals in Vancouver. Her study found a rapid growth in the number of short term rentals was undermining the city’s efforts to get more rental units on the market.

“It’s very concerning because the City of North Vancouver, like the whole of Metro Vancouver, has a very low vacancy rate,” Sawatzky said.

The City of North Vancouver is one of the leaders in the region when it comes to incentivizing an increase in rental supply, Sawatzky added.

“They’re doing that with public funds because they’re trying to serve a public policy purpose and a goal that would benefit all the citizens of North Vancouver and particularly the renters. It’s upsetting when companies subvert that because the need is so desperate and so great for purpose built rental housing, and it takes a long time to get it built.”

Epp said the city deals with most complaints about short term rentals by sending a letter to the owner, warning them the use is not permitted.

“Most issues have been resolved in this manner by voluntary compliance. We are also pursuing other enforcement avenues in some specific instances,” he said.
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