City moves to restrict Airbnb short-term rentals downtown

The City of Montreal is trying to crack down on how many short-term rentals, like Airbnb listings, are allowed in the heart of downtown.

Bylaw would limit number of permits for short-term rentals

The city is hoping to drastically limit the amount or Airbnbs in downtown Montreal with a new bylaw. (John MacDougall/Getty Images)

The City of Montreal is trying to crack down on how many short-term rentals are permitted in the heart of downtown, in an effort to combat the influx of Airbnb-type listings in the city centre.

Currently, people renting out units for short terms need a special permit. By limiting the locations for these permits, the city hopes to cut down on the total number of properties being listed altogether.

If passed, the proposed bylaw would issue permits only for properties bordering Ste-Catherine Street between Saint-Mathieu and Amherst streets.

In addition, no Airbnb-type rental will be allowed within 150 metres of another.

There are hundreds of Airbnb rental listings in the downtown area. (CBC)

"Citizens complain about noise, pollution, security," said Richard Ryan, a city councillor for the Mile End. "We are losing a lot of available housing for the residents."

He said thousands of illegal rental listings — sublet by people who don't hold the proper permits — exist throughout the downtown and Plateau-Mont-Royal.

"The goal is to try to restrict, try to put the balance between the residential use and touristic use," said Ryan.

He said they are trying to avoid situations where the majority of apartments in a single building are being rented out.

That's the current reality for Andrew Chapman, who lives in a nine-unit condo building near the busy Berri-UQAM Metro station.

Andrew Chapman has found himself the only full-time resident of a downtown Montreal condo building. (Andrew Chapman)

He said most condos in the building are used for short-term rentals.

"When you have a group of teenagers coming in the building and partying and leaving bottles around, making noise from time to time, obviously that's an issue."

Chapman said that while he supports the idea of Airbnb in general, he doesn't want to see the local housing market abused for profit.

Airbnb responds

Airbnb issued a statement to CBC Wednesday evening, saying that they are "committed to working with communities across Canada, including boroughs in Montreal."

Spokesperson Alexandra Dagg wrote that short-term rentals can actually be good for communities, bringing tourists out of the city centre.

"Airbnb travellers tend to stay longer and spend more money in diverse neighbourhoods, supporting small businesses like local coffee shops and restaurants that normally wouldn't benefit from tourism dollars."

There will be a public meeting May 1 where the city will be taking questions and comments from citizens about the proposed bylaw.

This move would not target bed and breakfasts or existing permit holders.

This is not the first attempt to regulate Airbnbs and other short-term rentals in Quebec.

A 2016 law, the only one of its kind in Canada, requires people who rent out accommodations for less than a month to have a permit and pay a hotel tax.

Tourism Quebec reported in 2017 that the number of people who applied for permits provincially was dismally low compared with the overall estimate of how many rentals are out there.