Airbnb: 79 per cent of Quebec rentals in February not certified, housing group says

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MONTREAL — A report by a Montreal tenants' rights association says 79 per cent of the roughly 30,000 units in Quebec that were available for rent in February on Airbnb were not certified by the province.

Short-term rental company Airbnb contributes to the housing shortage because the online platform takes units off the long-term rental market, the Coalition of Housing Committees and Tenants Associations of Quebec said in its report released Tuesday.

The group said that in some regions of the province, the number of February listings without registration numbers rose compared to the prior month. The report also said that 95 per cent of Airbnb listings in Montreal's northern suburb of Laval were uncertified.

Airbnb on Tuesday said the data in the report is "inaccurate."

"We don't publish the number of listings in a city, but I can confirm that the number is inaccurate," Airbnb spokesperson Matt McNama said in an interview.

Cedric Dussault, a co-spokesperson for the tenants group, says vacancy rates in most regions of Quebec would be at three per cent or higher if the units on Airbnb were put on the long-term rental market.

A rental market is considered balanced when the vacancy rate reaches three per cent, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. A rate below three per cent constitutes a housing shortage; Montreal's rate in 2022 was 2.3 per cent.

Airbnb said last week it would remove all Quebec listings without permits, eight days after a fatal fire destroyed an Old Montreal building that housed illegal rentals. Seven people were killed in the blaze.

As of Tuesday morning, the San Francisco-based housing marketplace still hosted Quebec listings without permit numbers issued by the province. But later in the day, McNama said in a written statement that "all short-term rental listings without a registration number on Airbnb will be disabled today."

Dussault said limiting companies like Airbnb to listing only government-certified rental units "doesn't solve everything." He said the government should instead ban short-term rental companies from operating in the province.

"The heart of the problem is not whether a listing in certified or not, but the transformation of long-term rental units for tourism purposes. We are talking about tenants who are legally evicted to rent units to tourists or investors who buy units for the sole purpose of renting them on Airbnb."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.

Stéphane Blais, The Canadian Press