Nanaimo could be moving a step closer to easing restrictions around long-term living in recreational vehicles.
At a governance and priorities committee meeting Monday, city staff were asked to compile a report on how the city might find ways to allow people to live full-time in RVs.
The direction followed a motion tabled by Coun. Zeni Maartman earlier this spring in response to Nanaimo’s affordable housing shortage and a lack of spaces and long wait lists on the central Island for people looking to live in their RVs while they try to purchase property or find affordable housing.
Currently, Nanaimo allows short-term living in RVs for up to 42 days in a calendar year on private properties for non-paying guests or during construction of a single dwelling with an active building permit.
RVs can’t be rented out or sublet, but can be lived in for up to 90 days in a calendar year in some Nanaimo campgrounds that provide proper RV facilities.
“Unique to Nanaimo and something that has been in place for a while, but … is not maybe widely known, is … the provision for temporary or permanent accommodation within recreational vehicle parks,” said Jeremy Holm, city director of development approvals, in his presentation to the committee.
A portion of Living Forest Campground’s land on Maki Road is zoned for long-term RV living. Resort on the Lake, on Woss Lake Drive, and Westwood Lake RV, on Westwood Road, also provide long-term RV accommodation.
Holm pointed out RVs don’t meet health and safety standards for permanent habitation and are not permitted to connect to city services.
He said concern has also been raised about the impact RVs with permanent residents can have on neighbourhoods and that there have been complaints of disturbances caused by RV residents, but he also noted there are situations where people whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 have taken up living in RVs on their properties to protect their families.
“We know, anecdotally, of cases where family members have been residing in RVs on properties throughout the pandemic,” Holm said. “We know of other cases, and it’s evident around town, whether they’re on road rights-of-way or on property, but generally we’re acting on a complaint basis and … when we do respond, it’s related to neighbourhood impacts.”
There also already exists a recommendation in Nanaimo’s affordable housing strategy to consider ways to allow accommodation in RVs in mobile home parks and possibly other residential areas, similar to Maartman’s motion, plus, Holm noted, there is zoning bylaw amendment from 2019 to allow modular buildings as secondary suites.
Holm also said there is concern downgrading what is acceptable as permanent housing could delay “investments in permanent solutions.”
Coun. Don Bonner said if permanent RV residency were to be allowed, he’d like to see regulations requiring proper hookup to utilities and other requirements that current apply to mobile carriage houses.
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog expressed concern about problems with RVs parking on streets, as has happened in other cities.
“Vancouver is now moving to ensure that people aren’t parking permanently in RVs in their streets. Squamish has similar issues … I appreciate Coun. Bonner’s suggestion we try and allow it in neighbourhoods on people’s property, but I’m honestly a bit concerned about opening up this box,” Krog said.
Coun. Erin Hemmens asked about the potential for expanding the capacity for RVs in mobile home parks.
“There has not been a new mobile home park built in Nanaimo in probably 25 years and the reality is now we find ourselves in a position with much of the land that we have left that’s suitable for redevelopment, typically has topographical constraints that make it difficult to develop mobile home parks on or … there’s a higher value placed on those properties that it just doesn’t make economic sense,” said Dale Lindsay, general manager of development services.
The governance and priorities committee passed a motion to direct staff to prepare a report on the options available to support permanent recreation vehicle accommodation.
Krog and councillors Ian Thorpe and Tyler Brown voted against the motion. Coun. Sheryl Armstrong was not in attendance.