Montreal's Plateau borough wants to stop duplex conversions

Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal borough is moving to prevent people from converting their multi-unit buildings into single-family homes.

Plateau-Mont-Royal moves to prevent renovictions with proposed bylaw change

An outdoor shot of homes in Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal borough.
Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal borough is moving to prevent people from converting their multi-unit buildings into single-family homes. (Kim McNairn/CBC)

Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal borough wants to prevent renovictions and the loss of affordable rental units by preventing the conversion of duplexes and triplexes into single-family housing.

The borough is planning to change its bylaws to make it harder to reduce the number of dwellings in an existing building, including increasing fines for infringement. The change still needs to go through a public consultation on April 9 before it can be implemented.

"We wanted to make sure that we're not losing units during this housing crisis," said borough councillor Marie Plourde.

"We've lost over 100 units this way over the last year. So it's not just an impression. It's based on facts."

The borough put a set of rules in place to curb these practices in 2021 but now says it needs to go further due to an increase in fraudulent evictions and repossessions.

"There were a lot of evictions that were based on false renovation and that's what we want to avoid," said Plourde.

She said the Plateau has been losing its social diversity as more people are evicted for renovations and changes of use. Other boroughs like Ville-Marie and Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension have put similar rules in place.

David Alfaro Clark, a spokesperson of the province's urban planning association, the Ordre des urbanistes du Québec, said the move is necessary because of the city's very low vacancy rate.

"There are a lot of people who are having trouble finding housing and the fact that there is a sort of erosion of the number of units of housing in these very central neighbourhoods is a problem," he said.

Clark said zoning changes aren't enough to solve the housing crisis, but they can help preserve existing housing stock and promote new developments.

Most affordable housing units in the city are not new; they're older units that have been occupied a long time, said Clark. Meanwhile, households are getting smaller but occupying larger spaces, which adds an extra crunch, he added.

However, it can be understandable that people occupying a duplex might want to turn it into a larger unit to have children, said Clark, and these kinds of renovations can still be approved by the city.

colourful homes stuck together along an urban street.
The Plateau is a popular area of Montreal and experts say building new units is key to keeping the neighbourhood accessible. (Kim McNairn/CBC)

Adam Mongrain, the director of housing policy for Vivre en Ville, a non-profit that promotes sustainable city development, said preventing single-family home conversions amounts to "stopping the bleeding" of the housing crisis.

He said people will always want to live in the Plateau Mont-Royal, and building new units and implementing a rent registry are ways to keep the neighbourhood accessible.

"It needs to stop being so profitable to churn through your tenants, which is something that is more coherent with the tools and powers of the province of Quebec," said Mongrain.

Éric Sansoucy chairs the Corporation des propriétaires immobiliers du Québec, a group that represents 30,000 landlords and property managers. He said the regulation change would affect property rights, particularly for young families who may have purchased duplexes or triplexes as affordable housing options.

With the new regulation, their ability to utilize the space for expanding families or accommodating older relatives is compromised, he explained.

"They're now faced with that new regulation and what what are their options? Will they sell and move to the suburbs? I don't think it is what we want," he said.


Erika Morris

CBC News journalist

Erika Morris is a journalist at CBC Montreal.

with files from Steve Rukavina