Montreal borough votes to restrict Airbnb style rentals in downtown core

MONTREAL _ A Montreal borough is bringing in new rules aimed at limiting the number of short-term rentals in the city’s downtown core in the hopes of preventing conflicts between tourists and residents.

Councillors in the Ville-Marie borough adopted a new motion Tuesday evening to restrict private tourist rentals such as those offered on Airbnb.

The rules will limit new rentals to a 3.3-kilometre stretch surrounding one of the city’s busiest commercial streets and will prevent new rentals from opening within 150 metres of each other.

City documents state the bylaw is designed to “substantially limit” the number of short-term rentals in order to “prevent problematic cohabitation issues between tourists and residents.”

“Elected officials want the downtown area to remain an inhabited, healthy and supportive environment for the establishment of families,” the city said in a recent statement.

While residential neighbours may complain about noise, garbage and late-night parties, cities are also grappling with how to regulate short-term rentals amid wider concerns they contribute to housing unaffordability and take long-term rentals off the market.

In the past year, the governments of Quebec and British Columbia reached agreements with Airbnb in which the platform agreed to collect tax on short-term rentals.

Cities such as Toronto and Vancouver have put their own rules in place, including a recent decision by Vancouver city council to restrict listings to an owner’s primary residence, with few exceptions.

A 2017 study by McGill University found that Airbnb has removed as many as 14,000 units of housing from rental markets in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

It also found that a small number of large commercial property owners accounted for nearly half of the $430 million yearly revenue in the three Canadian cities.

These findings were disputed by Airbnb, which claims that the vast majority of users are ordinary people who occasionally rent out part of or all of their primary residence to help pay their bills.

Of some 14,300 “entire home listings” in Montreal, more than 80 per cent were rented for fewer than 180 days between May 2017 and May 2018, the company said earlier this week.

Almost two-thirds, or 63 per cent, were listed for fewer than 60 days.

“Simply put, entire home listings on Airbnb are not a driver of housing prices in Montreal,” the company said in a statement.

Airbnb added it wants to work with the city to ensure new rules balance affordability concerns with people’s rights to share their homes.