Options for regulating people living temporarily in recreational vehicles in the area due to the housing crisis will be the subject of a report that will be prepared by the City of Duncan.
Council made that decision 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 acknowledgment 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.
At the meeting, North Cowichan Coun. Tek Manhas acknowledged that the issue is growing in the Cowichan Valley.
He said he frequently sees RVs parked overnight on the side of roads and in parks and parking lots in the community.
“What I would like to see is designated lots for overnight stays for RVs considering the housing crisis we’re in,” Manhas said.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said the municipality has received some complaints from businesses in Chemainus about RVs staying more than a few days in areas designated for RV parking for tourists near the downtown core that they fear are impacting their sales.
But he said North Cowichan has been taking a lenient approach to the issue due to the housing crisis, and many people living in RVs are productive members of society with jobs that have no choice but to do so.
“There’s a difference between that and some of the social disorders that sometimes come with this, but we haven’t seen a lot of the social disorder,” Siebring said.
“It’s a delicate balancing act for our bylaw people. I’m not sure if we in North Cowichan would be prepared to designate areas for RVs or relax our building bylaws so that RVs could be parked in driveways because there are a lot of issues around sewage and garbage disposal. It’s not as simple as it looks.”
Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples said the city’s conversation with Simmonds has been around trying to fund options on how the issue can be best addressed, including using church parking lots in the community for temporary RV parking.
“People would then have access to washrooms and some basic needs that may not be within the RVs they have,” she said.
“We need to look at what’s possible.”