People living temporarily in recreational vehicles will be one of the topics discussed at a joint special council meeting between the Municipality of North Cowichan and the City of Duncan on July 5.
The issue was raised by Minister Keith Simmonds, from Duncan United Church, who asked in an email to the City of Duncan that authorities consider the plight of people living in RVs as the ongoing shortage of affordable housing in the region is making it impossible for them to find a better option.
“Current bylaws do not allow people to live in RVs unless it’s at our overfull and costly RV parks, and this is causing a hardship to many,” Simmonds said.
“Parking lots, including our own, are being sought out as overnight resting places by some folk with no other housing options. We wonder if the city would consider supporting that use.”
In reply, Duncan’s director of corporate services Paige MacWilliam replied to Simmonds in an email that the city is aware that, due to the housing crisis, the issue of people living in RVs is likely to continue, but city bylaws do not permit overnight parking.
“This is an issue that local governments everywhere are challenged to address as overnight parking requires appropriate garbage and washroom facilities and can result in enforcement challenges,” MacWilliam said.
But in acknowledgement of the fact that the problem is increasing, she told Simmonds that the issue would be discussed at the joint special council meeting on July 5.
In a staff report prepared for the meeting, MacWilliam said the city’s approach to bylaw enforcement is primarily complaint based, and the city does not have the resources to proactively monitor all areas of Duncan to confirm compliance with all potentially applicable bylaws.
MacWilliam said parking enforcement in the city is conducted proactively, as staff time permits, and RVs are required to follow the posted time limits.
“The city does not currently have any active enforcement action files regarding people residing in RVs, but it is very likely that this is occurring within city boundaries as well as in neighbouring jurisdictions,” she said.
“Because this issue crosses jurisdictional boundaries, it is beneficial that any effort to either increase or decrease enforcement or regulation should be done regionally.”
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said it’s known that people are living illegally in RVs in the municipality as well, but bylaw officers have been lenient up to this point in recognition of the housing crisis.
“Unless there’s social disorder, people in RVs that spend just two or three nights in one place is fine, and we’re not issuing a lot of tickets if they are not creating problems,” he said.
“While most of these people understand that they can’t stay in one place for weeks, some don’t get it so what do we do with them? How do we deal with enforcement? It’s a difficult situation.”
Other issues to be discussed at the meeting on July 5 are the City of Duncan’s transportation and mobility strategy, the Trans-Canada Highway corridor management plan and the Friendship Trail along Canada Avenue.