Updates from March, 2023 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Kate 16:49 on 2023-03-20 Permalink | Reply  

    An investigation into the causes of the Place Youville fire to determine whether criminal charges will apply will take time, police chief Fady Dagher said Monday in a presser in front of the ravaged building.

    In the same presser, the mayor said that Airbnb has to stop listing illegal rentals and can’t just brush it off, saying it’s up to others to verify whether listings are permitted.

    If it does transpire that seven people died in the fire, it will be the most deadly the city has seen in fifty years.

    And the buck-passing begins as Quebec’s tourism minister says it’s up to cities to control illegal short‑term rentals.

    Update: One of the missing people is neuroscientist An Wu, who rented a room there for one night following an academic conference. Her friends and colleagues had no idea why she hadn’t returned to San Diego where she was a postdoc. CBC tells about two other women who have been missing since the fire.

    • Joey 18:03 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

      It would’ve been so easy for the mayor and any one of the implicated ministers (or better yet, IMO, the premier) to jointly say that the current approach to managing short-term rentals is obviously not working, we’re going to work together to crack down in the most effective way possible – whether it’s city inspectors, RQ inspectors, whoever, we’ll sort it out together. Instead we get two layers of gov’t pointing the finger and passing the buck back and forth while we’re still counting bodies.

    • Ephraim 18:31 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

      How about a new approach… $2500 per day for AirBnB for listings that lack licence numbers. And $2500 per day for the guest who books an illegal AirBnB,

      Yes, a fine for the guest. Let’s see if AirBnB will do something if their guests are subject to the fine as well.

    • Joey 21:35 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

      La Presse reports that the provincial minister doesn’t know the basics of this file:

      “Or, son cabinet est intervenu en soirée pour corriger le tir et reconnaître que les inspecteurs de Revenu Québec étaient bien ceux qui devaient intervenir pour sanctionner les locateurs des logements annoncés sur Airbnb sans numéro de la CITQ.”

    • Michael 21:36 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

      People playing politics based off whether they hate airbnb or not.

      Let’s wait to see the cause of the fire.

      This might not be an airbnb issue, but a specific owner issue whether he deserves jail time or not.

    • dwgs 22:22 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

      Michael, it has been reported that one young woman called 911 twice, reported that she was staying in an AirBnB that was on fire and she couldn’t get out because there was no window in her room. If AirBnB carried a listing for an accommodation that didn’t meet fire code norms then this is most definitely an airbnb issue, regardless of punishment for the individual owner.

    • Ephraim 22:32 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

      There is a legal requirement in Quebec to register. This obligation is supposed to be enforced by Revenu Quebec. You can go on NOW to AirBnB and see thousands of listings with no registration number. And did Revenu Quebec do anything about it?

      Now, Revenu Quebec has the chance to make an example of this case. Go after the owner, go after the tenant, collect ALL the fines… read through the bank accounts and follow the money.

      And the government has to change the law and FINE AirBnB for not enforcing the law. But as far as I’m concerned, Revenu Quebec has blood on their hands. It’s years of mismanagement of this portofolio. Look up the newspaper articles… 95% of AirBnB listings are illegals where the onus is on Revenu Quebec to enforce… and yet cities all over the world have managed to get AirBnB to enforce by putting the onus on AirBnB and on the guests rather than the hosts.

    • Michael 23:26 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

      Is it airbnb’s fault the owner has an apartment with a bedroom without a window? There are thousands of apartment units that don’t meet fire code norms that are rented right now at this very moment. If this apartment was not rented to airbnb it would have been rented to another desperate tenant that takes it without a window.

      I don’t run 1 airbnb myself nor do I rent from airbnbs when I travel. I would take the prudent approach and wait and see the results of the investigation, instead of just lighting up the crusade torches.

    • walkerp 08:10 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      It sounds like a tenant illegally broke the unit up into smaller units, which makes that person, the property owner, the inspectors and airbnb all responsible in varying degrees.

      No doubt, though, that the environment that allowed airbnb to run wild in town without any oversight or regulation is a major factor here.

    • Tim S. 08:34 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      If the Airbnb platform allows you to rent an unsafe apartment, then it’s an AirBnB problem. If Airbnb took money from those who died or were hurt, it’s an Airbnb problem.

    • Chris 09:01 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Y’all can rail against Airbnb all you want, but it seems to me that overall the public loves Airbnb overall. As a consequence, politicians and regulators let it be.

    • Kevin 09:22 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      The whole “run fast and break things” ethos of post-millennium tech companies is based on a complete ignorance of Chesterton’s fence.

      We need to make study of the humanities mandatory for more people in our society.

    • Meezly 09:25 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      What Joey said. If Vancouver can get illegal AirBnBs under control, then so can Montreal.

    • Meezly 09:30 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      The fire also made international news, no part in due to the missing people who were visiting from other countries. Politicians must realize how bad the optics are when they’ve allowed illegal airbnb’s to proliferate carte blanche in their city.

    • Paul 09:32 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Any listing that wants to rent more than 30 days/year should be required to have a license. AirBnB should enforce this like they do in other cities. We visited Barcelona last summer and the number of AirBnBs was minimal due to this type of process, so it is possible!

      (that being said, Montreal is missing affordable tourist accommodations in general, and missing rentals outside of downtown, so AirBnB does meet a need)

    • walkerp 10:08 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Chris, people don’t love airbnbs. They were well-loved in the beginning when they actually added value to the hospitality marketplace by freeing up shared space in homes. However, once they started “disrupting” traditional hotels by basically becoming hotels without any of the pesky regulations, they turned into an investment vehicle for property owners and entrepeneurs. Now, just like uber, their prices are rising and the quality of the product diminishing (that’s putting it mildly when the product starts to actually burn people to death). Same thing that happened to Uber and taxis.

      Airbnb has basically become a giant end-run around regulations where only the large-scale property owners benefit.

    • Ephraim 10:20 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Nothing wrong with AirBnB IF they play by the same rules. They aren’t. They help people avoid paying taxes. They finally have to collect GST/QST and hospitality tax. But they still don’t report income, you are supposed to self report. And they still don’t ensure that you are paying commercial property tax, not residential

      If you want to pay residential tax… live there! If you aren’t living there, and you rent it for less than 30 days, it’s COMMERCIAL.

      We could invert the whole tax system and require that everyone every year provide proof that they are living in the building or they have a tenant, so that you get taxed at the residential rate OR we could require AirBnB to report every address rented on the system and the dates it is rented if it is under 30 days at a time OR we could set up the commercial property tax per day and require AirBnB to collect it. So if your city tax bill is $5,475, or $15 per day, then the commercial property tax per day is $75 minus the $15 residential or $60 per day in property tax added to the AirBnB bill, payable directly to the city. Now, I wonder how that business will change.

    • George 10:21 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Paul, you are so nice thinking of the tourists rather than locals who can not find affordable housing. Why not ban AirBnb forever and let the 14,000 units become monthly rentals like they were designed for. AirBnb is a total cancer on society; founders are billionaires while creating housing shortages across the globe.

    • shawn 11:12 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Josée Legault has a strong column about the do-nothing approach of Montreal and the Québec gov’t to the problem and yes I believe now there will be action taken. It’s become an irresistible force. Plus there’s going to be lawsuits I daresay that will keep this is the public eye for years to come?

    • jeather 11:24 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Sure. I liked Airbnb at the beginning, when I could stay in someone’s spare room for a weekend with kitchen access for a lot less than a hotel. You could not pay me to use it anymore. I’m not sure who still uses it, and they don’t deserve to die for using it, but I periodically see complaints about being overcharged or stupid rules or just scammed generally and I think, well, this is what people sign up for now.

      I saw someone — Les Perreaux maybe? — saying that this disaster is another example of Canadian governments turning everything into a jurisdictional squabble. (I have no idea on what levels this is municipal vs provincial. Doesn’t seem to be federal.) It does look like this will have to end in strengthening regulations, at least.

    • dhomas 14:54 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Count me as one of those who don’t understand the appeal of AirBnB, at least in North America (it’s different in Europe). At least if it was cheap (like it used to be). Now, you pay the same or more than for a hotel room and you still have to clean it, make your bed, wash the towels, etc, or risk these immense “cleaning fees”. If I need to do all these chores, I’m not really on vacation. I’m just temporarily living in a different town. The only advantage I can see is that you can often be in a neighbourhood of your choosing.

    • EmilyG 15:10 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

    • Alex 16:20 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      AirBnb is a viable option for many travellers. It’s up to the (local) governments to enforce the requirements and AirBnB to cooperate. Cooperations won’t care unless they’re enforced, that’s just how it is.

      “People don’t love Airbnb” is based on anecdotal data. If you look up their latest earnings bookings are up 20% YoY in Q4. Same thing with annual revenue (+35% YoY) https://s26.q4cdn.com/656283129/files/doc_financials/2022/q4/Airbnb_Q4-2022-Shareholder-Letter_Final.pdf

      Bottom line: People will keep on using this service. Local governments can tax it, limit it when necessary and funnel it into social housing or other initiatives where it makes sense. I’m sure there are some smart people out there who already figured this out. Government (local, provincial or federal, doesn’t matter who) has to initiate the action here.

    • EmilyG 16:27 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      I have never used AirBNB, and now I’m even more sure that I never will.

    • shawn 18:17 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Wow that Ricochet piece is great. Zachary Kamel: I’ve never heard the name before but that’s some great investigative journalism imho.

    • Tim S. 18:26 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Indeed – i hope they took screenshots of all the now-deleted pages.

    • Chris 21:09 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      >“People don’t love Airbnb” is based on anecdotal data. If you look up their latest earnings bookings are up 20% YoY in Q4.

      Exactly. People are voting with their wallets. They don’t care that their sneakers are made by children, they don’t care that their phone is made by slaves, they don’t care that their burger was grown on burnt down rain forest, and they don’t care about all this wonky hospitality industry gobbledygook. They just want a cheap stay.

      Wish it weren’t so, but it is.

    • walkerp 21:37 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Take those earnings numbers with a big post-pandemic travel surge, pre-interest rate hike grain of salt. And that’s the whole point, Airbnb is no longer a cheap stay. Same as Uber, now as expensive and often more expensive than taxis.

    • Tim S. 21:38 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Chris, I think many of us do care, but we live in a society where it’s very difficult to opt out. There are all kinds of things I avoid or refuse to buy/do, but at some point you just gotta live. Case in point – I used to go out of my way to buy Stanfield’s socks etc because they were made in Canada – Pictou Nova Scotia I believe – but now I can’t find them anywhere. Doesn’t mean I’m indifferent to whatever goes in the Chinese factory where whatever I’m wearing now is made. To borrow an expression from Q, don’t mistake the choices forced on us by late stage capitalism for apathy.

    • Janet 12:59 on 2023-03-22 Permalink

      @Tim S, coincidentally, I have just read a New Yorker review of Matthew Desmond’s recent book “Poverty, by America” in which he explains how specific practices and policies harm the poor while benefitting the general population, who by choosing to buy goods produced by children, etc. etc. are complicit in the problem. The reviewer concludes: “It’s refreshing to read a work of social criticsm that eschews the easy and often smug allure of abstraction, in favor of plainspoken practicality. [It] deserves to be one of those books you see people reading on the subway, or handing around at organizing meetings, or citing in congressional hearings. Its moral force is a gut punch.”

    • Tim S. 20:50 on 2023-03-22 Permalink

      Getting off topic, but one of the things I realized during the pandemic, and will keep repeating, is the importance of time. Time means more of us can make our own food, sew our own clothes, repair electronics and other gadgets, and otherwise make responsible choices.

  • Kate 16:18 on 2023-03-20 Permalink | Reply  

    Not sure why this news story is on a science site, but a new study method reveals that financial landlords own four times more rental units here than had been thought, and that “neighbourhoods with more financial landlords are also experiencing higher housing stress levels.”

    In another housing story, a landlord is converting an east end triplex into a 22‑unit building with units as small as 400 sq.ft.

    • Blork 09:28 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      Weird. Not a week ago I spotted that building on Streetview and was wondering what its fate would be (most recent images show it all boarded up). It’s a gorgeous building, so I was worried that its sorry state would lead to it being demolished.

  • Kate 16:12 on 2023-03-20 Permalink | Reply  

    A couple of years ago, coyotes were in the news after many sightings but lately hardly any. Why would this be?

    • Blork 09:07 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      They’ve all been eaten by deer.

  • Kate 13:27 on 2023-03-20 Permalink | Reply  

    An academic researcher is condemning how Quebec subsidizes anglophone universities which he claims have the effect of anglicizing the culture – but he’s complaining how some of this money goes to students from the rest of Canada and elsewhere, so they were not Quebec residents to start with, undermining the idea that they’re anglicizing anybody important.

    Anyway, of course he says Quebec should stop funding anglophone universities and only pay people to study in French.

    Meantime, Denise Bombardier is mad that Québec solidaire is not separatist enough, but even she must be aware that most people voting QS are doing so because it’s the lefty option, not because of its pro forma kowtow to the old gods of Quebec nationalism.

    (Put that Journal de Montréal down, I know.)

    • jeather 13:52 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

      Ok, I think I see what he is saying. He says that tuition rates have 3 pots: from Quebec (this is a very weird group that does not always include who you think it includes) or la francophonie, rest of Canada, everyone else. This is true. He also says that this means that Quebec is subsidising the first two groups because otherwise they would be charged the same rate as the third group. I have no idea if this is true. He then has weird statistics that Quebec pays on average either 5k or 35k per student, based on I can’t guess what because his numbers make zero sense.

    • Uatu 10:34 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      They should really crack down on the international organizations like IATA. The ones that the government bends language laws to bring here. That’d be a great example of Le leadership.

    • Kevin 11:42 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      This is a reaction to last week’s item that you can’t avoid English in university.

      Let’s see if today’s provincial budget makes cuts to university education…

    • jeather 12:46 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

      There’s this entirely reasonable piece saying this isn’t just a problem for Quebec, or francophones, with a few reasonable suggestions of where to start, and then the batshit comments about how English is not capable of expressing nuance and that bilingualism makes you stupid.

  • Kate 11:05 on 2023-03-20 Permalink | Reply  

    A man died in a fire in Verdun early Monday, and a fire in the Quartier Latin displaced two families from a commercial‑residential row building.

    • Kate 09:20 on 2023-03-20 Permalink | Reply  

      Radio-Canada has a thoughtful Pascal Robidas piece on how troubled mental health was at the heart of the five homicides the city had seen up till Sunday, but then there was a sixth homicide later which was a typical gang slaying, a man shot on the sidewalk from a car. A different kind of trouble in social adjustment, perhaps.

      TVA says there have already been four episodes of firearm violence so far this year, but some of the incidents listed were gunfire with no victims.

      • Kate 08:44 on 2023-03-20 Permalink | Reply  

        A woman’s body was found in the fire ruins on Place Youville on Sunday evening, but no identification has yet been announced.

        There’s a lot more work to be done on that site, with six more people still missing. Police say people from Quebec, Ontario and the U.S. are among the missing.

        • shawn 15:09 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

          Oh boy the mayor says ‘the solution will require collaboration between Montreal, Quebec, and especially Airbnb…claiming the latter need to do more to ensure its users comply with the law.’

        • Kate 15:31 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

          She’s got to know that her city hall AND Quebec City have been negligent on this dossier, and now it’s taken seven deaths for them to maybe snap out of the apathy.

        • Ephraim 18:36 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

          No… Revenu Quebec has been negligent. They are the licencing authority. You can go on to AirBnB and put in a date, look up what’s available in Montreal and see listing after listing without the licence number. Officially the fine is $2500 per day, not per occurrence. You have 400 reviews, that’s $1M in fines. But it’s RQ they can simply do an audit to see if you paid your income tax on this, so bring us a copy of your bank statement and let’s ROLL OUT THE FINES.

          They have the names of the owner of that apartment building, he has the names of the tenants, just start going through them. Use them as the example… they killed 7 people with their negligence. But there is only ONE government office responsible… this dossier is at Revenu Quebec.

        • Kate 19:50 on 2023-03-20 Permalink

          Ephraim, so why is it that the tax people, who can be so relentless when pursuing private individuals, are soft on Airbnb operators? I can’t believe this has been happening now for years if it’s not unspoken policy, but why would it be policy to pass up so many fines?

        • walkerp 07:39 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

          Probably pressure from the minister who gets pressure from some real estate/airbnb lobby. Or could be straight-up corruption.
          There is clearly more than just an oversight going on with the way airbnb has been allowed to flourish.

        • Ephraim 08:07 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

          Kate – Because it’s hard to police and the government, didn’t give them enough teeth. The fine is good, but they have to comb through the listings looking for those that lack numbers and then try to connect the dots. Instead, RQ should require AirBnB to report to report income as well as number of days rented and average length of rental. At that point, considering that it’s a $2500 per day fine for not having a licence, either everyone will have one, or dread getting that tax form and having to go bankrupt.

          Also, suddenly AirBnB would enforce it, because can you imagine the lawsuits for not warning people that their income would all go to RQ to pay their fines?

        • qatzelok 09:59 on 2023-03-21 Permalink

          I really don’t think we should let Airbnb off the hook. They have managed to weasle their way into the entire world’s housing stock, and many of the operators are organized crime-ish.

          Also, what percentage of Montreal’s buildings are owned by organized crime? More than the Catholic Church’s 15%?

      • Kate 08:41 on 2023-03-20 Permalink | Reply  

        An 18-year-old man was shot on an Anjou sidewalk Sunday night and died later in hospital.

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