Airbnbs for $2,000 a night instead of shelters

A Griffintown building that was originally an apartment building is now a sprawling apartment hotel that costs between $150 and $2,000 a night.

• Also read: The $30 million loan to an Airbnb king has been denounced

• Also read: In the midst of a housing crisis, Quebec lends millions to an Airbnb king

Yesterday, our Bureau of Investigation reported that Quebec will lend $30 million to multinational company Sonder, which specializes in short-term rentals like Airbnb, amid a housing crisis.

Headquartered in the United States, the company manages 389 residential rentals in Montreal.

However, we found that 47 of these apartments are in a building, the Richmond, which should have housed more traditional apartments.

In 2011, developer Groupe Dayan requested a zoning to convert former industrial buildings in Griffintown into a 300-unit residential project.

A 3 1/2 example of this building that was charging over $200 a night when Le Journal recently rented it.

Photo Charles Mathieu

A 3 1/2 example of this building that was charging over $200 a night when Le Journal recently rented it.

This complex should “contribute to the creation of a new living environment,” we read in the documents presented to the elected representatives of the district of Sud-Ouest in Montreal.

acquired right

When applying for planning permission for the first phase of its project, the promoter instead applied for the construction of an 84-unit hotel apartment.

Of these, 47 apartments are currently managed by Sonder and seven more are rented out by the Dayan Group on Airbnb.

“It’s a business decision,” said the company’s president, Georges Dayan, who declined to comment further.

So, Sonder was able to use the zoning change to set up shop in Richmond just before the Sud-Ouest borough severely restricted the ability to do Airbnb-style rentals there.

“It sure is frustrating years later, with a housing crisis. We are currently making sure that we do not have such cases there. We really regulated,” says the Mayor of the South West and in charge of housing within the Plante administration, Benoît Dorais.

Banned since 2019

As of 2019, short-term rentals are banned in the Sud-Ouest except on a short section of Notre-Dame street.

“The hotel-apartment use in a residential area was still approved in 2018. [Sonder] is now ‘acquired rights,'” says District Communications Officer Anyck Paradis.

“At the time the permit was granted, tourist dwellings were permitted in this area,” Sonder also defended.

In its 300 condominium project, Dayan Group also committed to building 15% public housing and 15% affordable housing. 47 of these units are scheduled to launch this fall.

Hotels without a reception

The company Sonder can operate “hotels” without employees at the reception, even if the current municipal regulations no longer allow this.

In accordance with permits received from Tourisme Québec, Sonder currently operates two “tourist residences”, including the Richmond, and four “hotels”.

During our visit, we found that three of the four Sonder hotels do not have an on-site receptionist.

These are the Gare St-Denis projects opposite the CHUM, Victoria in Old Montreal and Lofts Guérin on Le Plateau-Mont-Royal.

Two regulations

At the latter location, the district had already attempted to counter unmanned hotels when Sonder opened his property.

However, the regulations were not specific enough to prevent Sonder from offering its receive-only service remotely.

“A reception desk had actually been set up at the facility and since the concept of service wasn’t really defined, it was difficult to ask for anything at that level,” explains Plateau-Mont-Royal communications manager Michel Tanguay.

This district therefore had to regulate again to counteract projects like those of Sonder.

This also applies to the Ville-Marie and Sud-Ouest districts, which now require hotels to have a 24-hour staffer.

Sonder was also against this regulation.

“There has to be a reception, with someone physically present. Otherwise, it is not compliant,” stresses the Plante administration’s housing manager, Benoit Dorais.

acquired right

However, the company resisted that Sonder could operate three of his hotels under the old law, by virtue of acquired rights.

“For this reason, we cannot speak of non-compliance with our regulations, nor can we ask for the presence of an employee 24 hours a day,” specifies Michel Tanguay.

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