Ottawa

Trapped inside an Airbnb powder keg

Eric Tietavainen is one of the last long-term residents of a Gilmour Street apartment building that's been converted into a short-term rental 'ghost hotel.' Last week, four people were shot there. One, an 18-year-old man, died.

Eric Tietavainen's Gilmour Street apartment building scene of last week's fatal shooting

Eric Tietavainen looks through the shattered front door window of his apartment building at 490 Gilmout St. Police investigating a fatal shooting smashed through the door last Tuesday. (Judy Trinh/CBC)

Eric Tietavainen woke up last Wednesday morning to the sound of police officers kicking down doors.

"I opened my front door and I had three policemen with their guns pointed at me," he said.

Four males had been shot inside the back unit of Tietavainen's Gilmour Street apartment building, including a 15-year-old boy. One of the shooting victims, 18-year-old Manyok Akol, died from his injuries.

People say, 'Oh, you should move.' I go, 'Where?'- Eric Tietavainen

Tietavainen, 66, said it's just the latest in a string of frightening disturbances since a new owner took over the six-unit building a couple years ago and began converting the one-bedroom units into Airbnb rentals.

"There was a lot of parties, and that sort of got a lot of people to move out because it became noisy and kind of an unsafe environment," Tietavainen said.

The incidents aren't always violent in nature — Tietavainen said one Canada Day he discovered a couple having sex in the corridor outside his apartment.

Now, four of the six units are listed on the short-term rental site, and Tietavainen believes the woman in the only other non-Airbnb apartment is on her way out, too.

Eric Tietavainen, who has lived in the building since 2011, describes what it's like living in the house where a fatal shooting occurred. 1:44

Scene of the crime

Nearly a week after the fatal shooting, blood still stained the snow on the building's front porch, and the front door window that was shattered by police hadn't been repaired.

Tietavainen, who has lived at 490 Gilmour St. since 2011, said his friends have advised him to move, but because he's on a fixed income, he said there's nowhere affordable for him to go.

"People say, 'Oh, you should move.' I go, 'Where?'" he said.

This photo is from an Airbnb listing for 488 Gilmour St., which is owned by the same host as 490 Gilmour, the scene of last week's fatal shooting. Airbnb said the host has now been removed from the site. (Airbnb)

Following the shooting, Airbnb said listings at 490 Gilmour St. had been deactivated, and the host had been removed from the platform. But by Tuesday afternoon, one week after the deadly shooting, two listings by the same host appeared on the website.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney said that's "extremely frustrating."

"Neighbours on that street continue to be concerned. There's some trauma that comes after a shooting on your street, and to have Airbnb to continue to allow this owner to list on their platform is really unconscionable."

In an email, Airbnb apologized and said the listings were deactivated as soon as they were brought to the company's attention. 

Stricter rules coming

CBC News has reached out to Pierre Begin, the owner of the Gilmour Street properties, several times since the Jan. 8 shooting. He has declined to comment, and didn't return messages left Tuesday morning. 

McKenney said the incident proves the city was correct to go ahead with stricter Airbnb rules. The new regulations, which are aimed at stamping out short-term rental "ghost hotels" like the one on Gilmour Street, will take several months to come into effect.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney in their city hall office. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Technically, these sorts of short-term rentals are already illegal in residential neighbourhoods. Anthony Di Monte, the city's general manager of emergency and protective services, said the city has issued 27 notices of violation for operating a short-term rental in a residential zone since last January.

Ottawa police had no update on the shooting investigation Tuesday, and would not comment on previous calls to the Gilmour Street address.

with files from Judy Trinh

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