Montrealer sole resident of condo building after other units rented on Airbnb

One Montreal man has found himself the only full-time resident of his downtown condo building because all the other units are being used for short-term rentals, like Airbnb. The home-sharing service is eating into the city's available housing, new research shows.

Over 10,600 listings for Montreal on Airbnb, majority for entire homes or apartments

Andrew Chapman is the only full-time resident of a downtown Montreal condo building, as the other eight units are being used as short-term rentals on Airbnb. (Andrew Chapman)

Andrew Chapman lives in a nine-unit condo building converted from a boutique hotel in downtown Montreal near the busy Berri-UQAM Metro station, a desirable home in a desirable area of an internationally popular city.

So much so, that Chapman has found himself to be the building's only full-time resident — because the rest of the units are being rented on services like Airbnb. 

"Gradually over the past couple of years since I bought my condo, I've noticed the creeping in of more and more short-term renters," he said in an interview on CBC Montreal's Daybreak program Tuesday. 

"We buy houses, whether it's on a street with picket fences or in a condo, and part of the experience is to get to know your neighbours and build relationships with the people that live close to you," he said. 

"In this type of environment, you miss out on that a little bit. It can feel a bit lonely at times."

Chapman contacted CBC News about his experience after McGill urban planning professor David Wachsmuth said on Monday that new research he led shows Airbnb is eating into the available housing stock in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto, as well as driving up rents.

Wachsmuth said a growing number of listings are for entire houses or apartments, and are owned by property management companies that have multiple listings in a city or even several cities.

"They're basically running hotels ... that are split across multiple apartments," Wachsmuth said.

Rentals on every street  

Because many properties are being listed on Airbnb, it means fewer places are available to rent or buy in the city's most popular neighbourhoods, Ville-Marie, where Chapman lives, and the Plateau-Mont-Royal.

"On every street of Plateau-Mont-Royal, we predict there are about 10 or so listings that will be registered on Airbnb," said Gabrielle Renaud, a community organizer with Plateau Mont-Royal Housing Committee, a tenants' rights group.

A property may be listed on the service, but not necessarily rented. However, data provided on the independent open-source website, Inside Airbnb, shows there were at least 2,952 listings for the Plateau area as of May 2016. 

According to the housing committee, there are 56,580 places to live in the Plateau, meaning a little over five per cent of the neighbourhood's housing is listed on Airbnb.

Wachsmuth himself estimates about two per cent of the area's housing stock is not available to rent because it's for rent on Airbnb. 

Leading to gentrification 

Renaud said the group has seen a concentration of listings around parks, like Laurier Park and Lafontaine Park, as well as the Mont-Royal Metro station. 

Officials on Haida Gwaii are at 'square one' of changing zoning bylaws to regulate Airbnb, the short-term rental website. (Airbnb)

"Airbnb is participating greatly in the gentrification process," she said.

"Lots of landlords evict tenants just to make a place into an Airbnb. There are rent increases, there are fewer and fewer places that are available for the residents of the Plateau, and are reserved for tourists."

Like Chapman, Renaud said there is a loss of solidarity and neighbourly feelings when an increasing number of units are being rented by Airbnb users. 

The property management company with the most listings on Airbnb in Montreal, Sonder, has somewhere between 47 and 52 listings in the Plateau alone, according to Renaud.

Sonder labels its properties for rent as "hometels." The company was started in Montreal and was originally called Flatbook, but rebranded in September 2016, at the same time it announced a $10-million funding round led by U.S. venture capital firm Spark Capital. 

The company has more than 160 properties listed on Airbnb in Montreal alone, as well as properties in San Francisco, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Miami, Toronto and Boston.

Chapman was a former Airbnb host himself, but decided to stop listing his home after his girlfriend moved in.

Chapman said he hasn't had any serious issues in the building, just the occasional bit of noise. He recently became president of his condo board, and is working with the other owners over issues, like building insurance, that may be affected by short-term rentals.

"It's important to me, as probably one of the largest purchases I'll ever make in my life, to make sure that's protected," he said. "It's a bit of a concern when I have strangers wandering around the building."