Montreal officials set to crack down on illegal key lockboxes for Airbnbs

Canada: Officials at Montreal City Hall have ordered its blue-collar workers to cut locks off lockboxes to prevent overtourism in its neighbourhoods.

The key boxes, which have a combination lock, are there for short-term rental hosts to leave a key for clients to enter the property they rent. Many of these are attached to parking machines or bike racks around downtown Montreal and the Plateau Mont-Royal areas.

The lockboxes have now come under focus by city officials who do not want neighbourhoods in the city being principally inhabited by visiting tourists.

Plateau Mont-Royal city councillor Alex Norris told Global News Canada: “We want to keep a balance between residential life and visitors.”

He added: “It (the lockbox) is a way that operators of illegal tourist residences have been evading detection because with lockboxes you can’t associate with an individual address.”

In some cases, the operator is not even in the city when the keys are left in the lockboxes.

Norris said: “Major real estate speculators buy up multiple properties, evict the tenants and then turn these properties into hotels when it’s completely illegal to have that kind of operation in a residential setting.”

As a result, he said that the City of Montreal is losing affordable rental property.

He said: “We estimate that thousands of apartments that could have otherwise been inhabited by tenants have been removed from the markets for these hotel-like operations.”

Other restrictions placed on Airbnb-type short-term rental setups include limiting them to certain commercial arteries, and for operators to register with the province.

However, some owners urged caution by saying that too many restrictions would have a negative effect on the city overall.

One owner, Tapasya, said: “It just means that people will leave Montreal again. Allow people to be enterprising to let the income come into the city, is what I say.”

She said that services like Airbnb are convenient and popular to its users, and that the key to the issue was to find the right balance.

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