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  • Writer's pictureHannah Sabourin

Chelsea caps Airbnbs at 30

Farm Point resident Tineke Kuijper said her retirement plans are in jeopardy because of an incoming Chelsea bylaw.


The recently retired resident bought a house in Chelsea to eventually rent out rooms through Airbnb, a vacation rental company. Kuijper said she felt dejected when municipal council voted unanimously to pass a draft bylaw during the Jan. 10 council meeting to restrict short-term rentals (STR) licenses to five residences per ward – 30 for all of Chelsea per year.


According to the Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard, this limitation would guarantee that more affordable rental units will be available on the open market.


He said he did not want the short-term, vacation rental market to be oversaturated, which he said could limit affordable housing options.


“Here in Chelsea, we don’t want housing to become a business. We want housing to stay a fundamental right,” said Guénard.


According to the municipal website, this draft bylaw is intended to “limit the impact of the new provincial legislation.”


In an email to the Low Down, Kuijper refuted Guénard’s statement.


“My main concern is that council is trying to use an axe to put in a screw. The wrong tool for the job in other words,” she wrote. “The proposed requirement that only five homes in residential areas per district annually will be permitted to rent out a room in their home through short-term platforms will not generate new long-term rental space as council suggests [or] hopes.”


In 2021 the province voted to pass Bill 67, which allows Quebecers across the province to rent out their primary residences in the short term.


The law goes into effect March 25, 2023.


However, before this date, individual municipalities are allowed to set limits on the number of tourist accommodations allowed in the municipality before Bill 67 goes into effect province-wide, according to the Ministère du Tourisme.


Guénard said the municipality will need to finalize the revised bylaw before the day when STRs are legal everywhere in Quebec.


The provincial legislation also states that STR hosts who rent out their primary residence will be exempt from business and non-residential taxation.


Kuijper, who said she intends to eventually rent out rooms in her home for tourists through Airbnb, was the first to step up to the microphone during question period during the regular council meeting on Jan. 10.


She questioned the reasoning behind council’s five-residences-per-ward restriction.

“[Your argument] is based on the notion that if I don’t rent out a room in my house through Airbnb, I will put it on the open market. But I won’t,” she said, explaining that because she is a woman who lives alone, she feels vulnerable when indefinitely renting out space in her home.


She added that, for her, Airbnb affords her better protections and more flexibility. She said that if she doesn’t feel safe living with a particular tenant, she may not be able to remove them from her home.


However, with Airbnb, the tenant is expected to stay for a predetermined amount of time. The maximum stay in Quebec is 31 days, according to Bill 67.


Kuijper also argued that reducing the amount of STR permits in Chelsea would likely disproportionately affect women. She pointed to an August 2022 statistic that showed women made up 60 per cent of Airbnb hosts out of 4 million worldwide. This statistic comes from an Airbnb survey on host demographics.


When she bought a house in Chelsea, she said she figured she would eventually rent out rooms via Airbnb to help pay her mortgage and ensure financial security during her retirement.


But with Chelsea’s talk of restrictions, she expressed worry about whether this plan is still possible.


During the January council meeting, Guénard said that council would hold a public consultation in February on this issue.


He also emphasized that council had to make a decision fast – to finalize the bylaw before March 25. In an apparent attempt to set expectations, Guénard said that not everyone will be necessarily content with council’s final decision. The municipality did not say what criteria they would use to approve or deny STR applications.


Those interested in finding out more about Chelsea’s STR by-law can find it on the municipal website at Chelsea.ca.

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