Council rejected motion to disallow short-term rental reimbursements
The council of the Concordia Student Union (CSU) rejected a motion to unauthorize the reimbursement of short-term marketplace rental fees to the university’s undergraduate student clubs on March 13.
“Council voted against it,” said Sophie Hough-Martin, general coordinator of the CSU. Council thought such a stance would be inhibitory to Airbnbs, but Hough-Martin disagreed. “I think there are enough options for affordable travel accommodations,” she said.
There is a growing fear that short-term rentals contribute to gentrification, as rental spaces that were once residential have become commercial. Active Airbnb units in Montreal increased by 58 per cent in 2017, according to a study performed by McGill’s School of Urban Planning. The study also showed that 91 per cent of Airbnb units were in the city’s urban core.
“We like to promote initiatives fighting gentrification on the ground,” Hough-Martin said. “There are a lot of different community organizations. As of right now, we haven’t taken more action. If we were to get a request to support one, we would have incentive to.”
A challenge students face while apartment-hunting is availability. Hough-Martin explained that as the number of short-term rental spaces in Montreal increases, the number of long-term ones decreases. Thus, it becomes even harder to find a place to live.
The CSU adopted a position against gentrification in April 2018. The purpose of the position was to promote the CSU’s practices to fight the effects gentrification has on students, most notably, rental fee hikes.
“Affordable housing is something all students can agree with,” said Hough-Martin. “Rent prices have increased, and it has become difficult [for students] to live in the city.”
According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the vacancy rate of multi-bedroom apartments in Montreal is 1.8 per cent. “That’s on par with Vancouver and Toronto. That’s a housing crisis,” said Leanne Ashworth, manager of the CSU Off-Campus Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO). “This has always been a difficulty for students, I think, but right now, we’re seeing the vacancy rate—the lack of—come alive.”
Ashworth said students need to rent affordable apartments close to school, but availability contends with short-term commercial rentals. HOJO helps students find apartments in areas of the city considered to be convenient to students. HOJO has since expanded its apartment searches to Hochelaga, Rosemont, and St-Michel. Students are having to trade high rental fees for longer commutes—a compromise they are forced to make.
The average rental price of an apartment in the Plateau has jumped by $200 in the last two years, according to a HOJO report. In 2017, a three-bedroom apartment in this neighbourhood would have cost $1,251 per month. Now, it costs $1,481.
Despite an 18 per cent increase, living with roommates remains the most affordable option. “In general, I think students are mostly paying over $500 a month,” said Ashworth. “At this point, it would be difficult for a student to find a three-bedroom apartment for $1,500. That would be very difficult. It would more likely be closer to $2,000, if it was in central Montreal.”
“I think we need to pressure the government at all levels to keep Montreal affordable,” Ashworth said. “We can’t keep having the rent going up every year by hundreds of dollars because this will not be a student city anymore.”
Graphic by Ana Bilokin.