Surrey city council has opted to delay considering a proposal that would effectively make it illegal to sleep overnight in RVs and other large vehicles on city streets.
The staff report presented to council Monday recommends an amendment to the city’s bylaws to ban people from occupying a motorhome or camper on Surrey roads between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Under the amendment, those vehicles would also not be allowed to park for more than three hours outside public parks, schools, churches or homes between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and cannot be occupied during that time, either.
Rather than take the report up for a vote, council voted to send it back to staff for further consideration.
In its report, staff note the proposal is meant to address “growing concerns from residents and businesses” and motivate people living in RVs and campers “to move into suitable housing.”
“The City periodically receives complaints related to Large Vehicles parked overnight on City roads,” the report reads. “The complaints typically originate from residents and businesses and relate to the impacts on available parking for residents, staff and customers.”
Residents have also complained about impacts to surrounding areas like debris, noise, improper disposal of waste or sewage, “unsightly” vehicles and poor electrical connections, the report adds.
Staff say bylaw officers would enforce the amended bylaw “depending on the occupant’s individual circumstances,” and only use ticketing, towing or impounding as a last resort.
Surrey’s current bylaws only prohibit any vehicle from being parked in the same spot for longer than 72 hours.
The amendments would bring Surrey in line with Vancouver’s bylaws, which also prohibit vehicles from being parked for longer than three hours outside a stranger’s home or business.
Yet Vancouver staff have said it’s not currently city policy to ticket people living in their vehicles.
Overnight camping on city streets has become a growing trend in several B.C. cities, but few have taken measures to crack down on the issue.
In Squamish, council approved a bylaw this past July that allows the city to levy fines up to $10,000 for camping illegally on Crown land, including so-called “van dwellers.”
Those who live in vehicles say they have little choice, calling it an affordable alternative to the prohibitive housing markets throughout B.C.
But safety concerns have also arisen, with a number of RV fires in Vancouver and elsewhere in the Lower Mainland linked to poor electrical connections and heating devices like propane tanks.
No numbers exist for how many people live in vehicles, as they’re often included in homeless counts conducted by municipalities and the province.
Advocates have called for more affordable rental housing, including modular homes, to be built in order to get more people off the streets.
Vancouver city staff have been asked to conduct a review of RV dwellers to present to council.