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Surrey council votes to ban sleeping overnight in RVs, vans on city streets

The high cost of housing in Metro Vancouver has led to an explosion of people living in campers, vans and RVs.
The high cost of housing in Metro Vancouver has led to an explosion of people living in campers, vans and RVs. Global News

The City of Surrey has moved to make it illegal to sleep overnight in RVs and other large vehicles on public streets.

Surrey city council voted five-four to amend city bylaws in order to ban people from occupying recreational vehicles and campers on city roads between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The bylaw change was the result of a staff report which spoke of “growing concerns from residents and businesses” and motivating people living in RVs and campers “to move into suitable housing.”

Other concerns included unsightly vehicles, improper disposal of waste and sewage, and poor electrical connections.

Coun. Allison Patton, who voted for the change, told CKNW’s Simi Sara Show the proposal was generated by “kind-hearted” staff, and that it wasn’t meant as a crackdown on all campers.

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READ MORE: Surrey council delays voting to ban sleeping overnight in RVs, vans on city streets

“It’s more a tool. If there is a person who who is in their RV park, let’s say in a cul de sac, and some of the residents there began to have an issue with it and they call the city, that’s more what we’re dealing with here,” she said.

“We’re not dealing with, you know, people going around looking for that problem.”

Surrey council considers ban on live-in RV’s
Surrey council considers ban on live-in RV’s

That’s not how Coun. Brenda Locke, who voted against the change, sees it.

Locke noted that the city’s previous bylaw was already complaint-driven, and said the city had only seen 27 complaints in 2019, 25 of which were addressed under the existing rules.

READ MORE: Motor city: Vancouver home to growing community of RV-dwellers amid housing woes

“This has not been a problem for Surrey. This is, in my mind, a mean spirited-action,” she said.

“Right now is not the time to do this, we’re heading into the winter season. One of the trailer parks in Surrey has just issued an eviction notice to over 200 trailers, so this is not a good time to be doing this.”

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Long-time Whistler resident worries he’ll lose his RV home
Long-time Whistler resident worries he’ll lose his RV home

Patton acknowledged that people living in campers weren’t a major issue at this time.

But she said after taking a tour of Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park homeless camp she saw “what happens when things can get out of hand.”

“We’re not saying there’s a problem now, but we’re always looking ahead to the future.”

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We’re always being as proactive as we can be. And I don’t think that this is going to be used to cause harm to anyone.”

READ MORE: Potential bylaw targets growing number of ‘van-dwellers’ in Squamish

Mike Musgrove, executive director with the Surrey Urban Mission, disagreed, saying the city’s homeless shelters are already full every night.

“We have a group of folks trying to find housing for people everyday and we’re not successful at finding places,” he said.

“If there is no real reason to do this, then you have to question the reasoning behind it.”

Vancouver neighbourhood fed up with people living in campers
Vancouver neighbourhood fed up with people living in campers

Patton couldn’t say where people who are currently living in RVs should go if they’re evicted by the city, but said Surrey had social housing proposals in development for sites near city hall, Green Timbers and White Rock.

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She instead referred the issue to Coun. Locke, who she said was heading up the city’s housing file.

Locke said the housing stock simply doesn’t exist.

“At the end of the day this is about housing.”

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“And Surrey does not have the kind of affordable housing supports that we need to have,” she said.

READ MORE: Residents of Surrey tent city resist displacement: ‘We have nowhere else to go’

Surrey’s previous bylaw had banned parking on a city street for longer than 72 hours.

In addition to the overnight ban, the new bylaw will also block RVs and vans from parking for longer than three hours outside public parks, schools, churches or homes between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and says they cannot be occupied during that time, either.

LISTEN: Journalist remembers living in RV

Surrey city 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.

—With files from Janet Brown and Sean Boynton