Montreal’s Ville-Marie borough (Downtown and Old Montreal) will be voting today on new regulations that may substantially reduce the number of short term rental allowed to operate in the city centre.
The proposed rules stipulate that “tourism residences” will not be allowed within 150 meters of each other, between Guy and Amherst streets along the St Catherine strip.
Airbnb’s effect on urban communities is a highly contested topic, in which individual homeowner rights are weighed against the communal rights of other residents in the building or in the neighbourhood.
The borough addresses this point in its proposal: “The worldwide phenomenon of renting tourism residences on platforms such as Airbnb, for example, can create benefits for some and inconveniences for others.”
Indeed, while Airbnb has allowed many Montreal homeowners to supplement their housing costs by renting out part or the entirety of their properties, others believe the influx of short term residents is detrimental to the overall stability of the community.
Downtown and the Plateau–Mont-Royal have, in particular, felt the brunt of the short-term tourism industry in Montreal. A McGill study on Airbnb found that two to three per cent of the housing stock in those neighbourhoods were run by property management companies offering short-term rentals.
Alex Dagg, a spokesperson for Airbnb, said the company is open to working with the borough, to make sure that any imposed regulations “balance affordability concerns with the right of everyday people to share their homes.”
Dagg hopes that the borough of Ville-Marie will wait for the province of Quebec to update their home sharing regulations, as currently proposed in the National Assembly, before voting in favour of overarching restrictive regulations.
A timeline of the legislative debate between Quebec and Airbnb
- In late 2015, Quebec passes a law requiring homeowners who rent out their homes for less than 31 days to obtain a permit and pay a hotel tax.
- In April 2016, the law was amended. Anyone advertising a rental accommodation for tourists for no more than 31 days on a “regular basis” were required to obtain a $250 permit, have at least $2-million of insurance and pay a nightly hotel tax.
- In 2016, data showed that the majority of Quebecers who had listed their homes on Airbnb and Kijiji had ignored the law, and had failed to obtain the necessary permit or pay the hotel tax.
- In August 2017, Airbnb struck a landmark deal with the government of Quebec, in which it was agreed that Airbnb would automatically pay the hotel tax on the behalf of all its users.
To some residents of Downtown Montreal, these restrictions come too late. Issues with noise and lack of neighbourly concern on the part of short term tenants has prompted certain homeowners to sell, leaving Downtown Montreal for quieter residential neighbourhoods.
At the end of the day, the debate boils down to two opposing sets of perspectives:
Pro short term rental homeowners:
- It’s my home and my financial investment, I should be able to rent it or manage it as I wish.
- Short term rental platforms are important in an increasingly mobile world, where people travel more frequently than ever. For travellers, the system may be a more affordable alternative compared to traditional accommodation, especially hotels.
- The government should not restrict free-market economic progress, including the right of residents to participate in the tourism industry.
Contra short term rental homeowners:
- The city should implement overarching legislation that protects the wellbeing of the community, over the profit of the individual.
- Airbnb promotes unfair competition between the hotel industry, which is strictly regulated, and individuals who do not have to comply with the same regulatory norms.
- A over-concentration of short term rental buildings can increase the average rental price in touristic areas, making it difficult for local, long term, tenants to keep up.
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