The “scourge” of short-term rentals
Municipalities in the Laurentians are taking the bull by the horns and are showing ingenuity in an attempt to stem the “scourge” of short-term rentals intended for transient customers. They fear, however, that their efforts will be thwarted by the decision of Quebec to allow, as of next year, the rental of main residences on Airbnb-type platforms across the province.
Constraining zoning by-laws, recourse to monitoring short-term rental advertisements and deployment of security guards from private firms handing out heavy fines to offenders: municipalities in the Laurentians are stepping up their efforts to restrict the presence of tourist chalets intended for short-term rental in their territory.
This region north of Montreal has experienced a demographic boom since the start of the pandemic, and many promoters have seized this opportunity to launch tourist chalet projects there intended for transient customers.
« It’s a scourge, » says the mayor of Saint-Adolphe-d’Howard, Claude Charbonneau. Over the years, « about 125 residences for short-term rental » have taken shape in this municipality of just over 3,800 inhabitants, said the mayor.
In recent years, he has initiated regulatory changes to limit the growth of this type of housing on the territory of his municipality, which has 85 lakes.
Tourist residences must therefore be 500 meters from each other, under zoning regulations, and a security guard from the firm Garda has been recruited by the City, in particular to issue fines to people who would not respect the regulations of the municipality.
« Personally, I’m not against Airbnbs, » assures Mr. Charbonneau. The problem is the people who rent out to gangs of young people who make parties breaking everything. »
A tranquility to preserve
In the township of Gore, which has some 2,200 inhabitants, « the population doubles in the summer » due to the arrival of vacationers « who come around the lakes to enjoy their chalet », notes the director general of the municipality, Julie Boyer.
Previously, many passing tourists were added to the lot, until the bucolic municipality decided to tighten the screw on short-term rentals.
For several years, in fact, these have only been permitted in a few areas of the municipality, where the homes are far from each other and from the lakes in the area. Elsewhere in the township of Gore, only cottage rentals for a period of more than thirty days are permitted, all to ensure the tranquility of a municipality bordered by lakes and woods.
In the past, we even had to go to court against landlords who continued to rent [illégalement] because our fines were not high enough.
“It’s true that economic development is interesting, but we can’t demolish the quality of life for that either,” notes the mayor of the municipality, Scott Pearce.
In order to enforce its municipal regulations, the township uses three security officers who can issue fines of « $300 a day » to landlords who illegally rent a dwelling or a cottage on a short-term basis, Pearce said.
A little further north, in Morin-Heights, where short-term rentals are mostly limited around ski resorts and downtown, the fine for offenders will be $1,000 per day at the end of the term. adoption of a new by-law expected “in December or January”, indicates the mayor, Timothy Watchorn.
“In the past, we even had to go to injunction against landlords who continued to rent [illégalement] because our fines were not high enough. When the person rented for $1,000 a day, but the fine was $200, that person still won,” recalls Mr. Watchorn, who therefore decided to tighten the screws on offenders on the territory of his municipality, which has some 4700 inhabitants.
The sad reality
While several municipalities in the Laurentians are implementing measures to better manage short-term rentals on their territory, others are slow to act, in part because of the « vicious circle » in which their dependence on property tax plunges them, notes the Director General of the Laurentian Regional Council for the Environment, Anne Léger. A reflection is necessary, in this context, to review the sources of funding for cities, she believes.
Mme Léger also notes that the ability of municipalities to limit the environmental impacts of real estate projects, such as the construction of tourist chalets, is limited. These developments can, however, lead to noise pollution, the introduction of invasive species into bodies of water and the erosion of the banks around the lakes, she lists.
It’s true that economic development is interesting, but we can’t destroy the quality of life for that either.
“The City will go there with its little regulation, it will send its little inspector who will issue a small fine. But the promoter at the origin of a project of several million, that does not annoy him much, notes Anne Léger. Often, we arrive on site and the seed is already there in a humid environment and the frogs are running away, if they are not already dead. That’s the sad reality. »
To ensure better protection of natural environments in the Laurentians, Ms.me Léger thus proposes that the region draw inspiration from the Montreal Metropolitan Community and that it put in place a land development plan giving itself quantified targets for the protection of its green spaces. Such a plan could also make it possible to « concentrate tourism in certain places » in the region, she says.
A worrying regulation
Meanwhile, the three mayors joined by The duty for this report are concerned about a provision of a provincial regulation on tourist accommodation, which is due to come into force in March 2023, which will have the effect of allowing Quebecers to rent their main residence on a short-term basis, anywhere in Quebec .
“We have trouble having inspectors who are there to issue building permits. So, I don’t have any staff to go and check overnight if your home, where you rented, is really your main residence. I don’t have the capacity to do that,” worries the mayor of Saint-Adolphe-d’Howard, Claude Charbonneau.
Joined by The dutythe Ministry of Tourism specifies that municipalities « retain the possibility » of restricting the short-term rental of main residences in certain areas of their territory, « provided that their regulations in this area are adopted in accordance with a referendum process ». defined by law, says a spokesperson, Virginie Rompré.
“We were given an escape. We were given the means to prohibit it anyway,” notes the mayor of Morin-Heights, Timothy Watchorn, who intends to seize this opportunity.
To see in video