Faced with complaints and real estate speculation, Saint-Côme is turning the screw on Airbnb

To great ills, great remedies. Faced with a skyrocketing property value on its territory, complaints from several residents and legal action, the municipality of Saint-Côme, in Lanaudière, has adopted new rules to better regulate rental. But concerns remain.

The weather was gray and gloomy when the Task in the commune of Saint-Côme, in Lanaudière. But nature remains breathtaking in this 2,500 inhabitants commune, which is accessible via long winding roads. “It really is a unique village. It’s beautiful,” acknowledged Bernard Paquin, who lives on the shores of Lac Clair, when we met him at his home last Tuesday.

It is therefore no surprise that the number of tourist residences in this municipality has exploded to more than 230 at the moment, according to the mayor, Martin Bordeleau, who sees this as an effect of the pandemic. “Since the onset of COVID, there has been a terrifying surge in sales of short-term rental properties,” he recalls. An observation shared by Mr. Paquin.

“We’ve lived here since the 1960s and we’ve seen big changes in the last two or three years,” he notes. There are investors who simply buy to rent for the short term. †

Regulatory Invalidity

Short-term rental properties have thus taken shape almost everywhere on the territory of the municipality in a context of regulatory vacuum around this lucrative activity for many owners, but troubling for many residents.

“Small customers don’t come to read Marcel Proust. They come to do it celebrate, they want to have pleasure† It lasts unbearable hours and there are inappropriate behavior “, regrets in particular Jean-Denis Asselin, president of the Association Notre-Dame du lac Clair, which unites more than 130 properties on the edge of this body of water, in Saint-Komen.

After repeated complaints from local residents, in particular concerning the noise from revelers temporarily staying in the luxury houses and chalets of the municipality, the latter called on a security guard from the company Garda last year, who was called in to respond to complaints from neighbors about Airbnb style accommodation. Since then, he has handed out several fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,000, in addition to giving “many warnings” to violating owners, the mayor said.

Slow down speculation

However, this initiative, which was renewed this year by opting for a different security agency this time, is not enough to cope with all the inconveniences of Airbnb’s “becoming out of control”, acknowledges the mayor, who is serving his third term in a row at the head of Saint-Côme. He notes in particular that these tourist residences, which are rented for several hundred dollars a night, increase the land value of the properties and their selling price. The municipality, confronted with major labor problems, is becoming less and less accessible for families who want to settle there permanently.

Short-term customers don’t come to read Marcel Proust. They come to “party”, they want to “have fun”. It takes excruciating hours and there is inappropriate behavior

“We have properties for which 63 offers have been made and which have sold for three times the price of value [foncière]† And they were intended for people who wanted to do short-term rentals,” notes Mr Bordeleau. This speculation means “that local people who want to buy a house can no longer afford it. […] And there is nothing to rent in the long term, sighs the president of the Association Notre-Dame du lac Clair, Jean-Denis Asselin, meets in his beautiful wooden house.

To stem this wave of speculation, the municipality therefore adopted changes to its urban planning regulations last week, directly inspired by the model implemented in the Magdalena Islands, which aim to create new tourist homes outside the holiday resorts. to prevent. These regulatory changes will officially come into effect following a vote scheduled for May 18 in the Matawinie MRC.

Short term rentals are therefore only allowed in certain predefined areas. These exclude the city’s more urban sector, as well as Lac Clair, whose homeowners’ association filed last October for a declaratory decision in the Superior Court so that Airbnb-like properties are considered businesses. de facto the presence around this water body.

“People at the municipality and the villagers have probably also understood that, like us, they don’t necessarily want Airbnb” in their neighborhood, notes the treasurer of the Association Notre-Dame du lac Clair, Claude Laurent, of the changes made. in the regulations to tighten the screws on short-term rental in the municipality. “Our request has probably caused some kind of awakening in many citizens. †

The same security officer responsible for answering citizens’ complaints related to short-term rentals will be responsible for enforcing this new ordinance on-site, with the backing of the city, Mayor Bordeleau said. Tourist home owners who receive two consecutive fines will have their occupancy permit revoked for one year. “This year it is clear that the tolerance is zero,” says the mayor.

Right obtained

However, the new regulations of the municipality provide for the application of an acquired right for the current owners of tourist homes, who can therefore continue to operate them outside the new licensed zones. So for Lac Clair, the city believes that “people have acquired rights,” laments Laurent.

The group of owners of which Mr Laurent is the treasurer therefore intends to rely in court on its approach to the concept of acquired right, which is not applicable in the present case, in the opinion of the lawyer representing that association, Eric Oliver.

“Airbnbs in the Lac Clair area have never complied with municipal regulations. They have taken advantage of the laxity of the municipality to continue operating,” emphasizes the lawyer, who regrets “a complete distortion of the concept of acquired rights” by the municipality of Saint-Côme.

Mayor Martin Bordeleau declined to comment on the specific Lac Clair case as it is under trial. A hearing date in this case has not yet been set.

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