Surrey councillors vote 5-4 to ban people from staying in RVs overnight on city streets

City councillors in Surrey, B.C., have voted in favour of a ban that would prohibit people from sleeping in RVs, camper vans and other large vehicles parked overnight on city streets. 

Councillors approved a staff report from the city's corporate services and engineering departments on Monday, which recommended a bylaw to bar such vehicles from being occupied while parked on city streets between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The report passed all three readings during a city council meeting Monday and will go back to councillors for final adoption, at which point the bylaw can be put into effect.

Five councillors were in favour, while four were against.

The report also proposed limiting to three hours the time such large vehicles can be parked overnight on roads beside residences, public parks, schools and churches.

Bylaws currently allow some large vehicles to park on city roads for up to 72 hours continuously. The new report recommends changing that limit to 24 hours.

According to the staff report, RVs and their inhabitants have prompted complaints to the city because of lack of parking, noise and improper waste disposal. 

Lack of housing

The staff report said the goal of the bylaw change is to "provide greater motivation to the occupants of large vehicles to move to suitable housing." 

Coun. Brenda Locke voted against the report Monday, saying she was concerned about the impact on those who live in their vehicles solely because they have nowhere else to go.

"I find that this particular corporate report is still one that is challenging to the community of people that are just trying to manage. There's references in the report about shelter space being available [as an alternative] ... shelter is not housing," she said.

Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC

Mike Musgrove, executive director of the Surrey Urban Mission, had also said the proposal was ill-timed. 

"There's no housing available. And people are trying to be creative about how they exist and live," Musgrove said in October, when the report was first presented to council.

"I would assume that if someone's living in a camper van that they've exhausted their opportunities."

The report said bylaw services staff "are mindful to the specific circumstances of each situation" and at times do offer to connect the occupants with social services and housing. 

Other municipalities in B.C. have proposed or implemented similar bans to stop people from sleeping or living in RVs and camper vans. The Thompson-Nicola Regional District cracked down on the use of recreational vehicles as homes in the region over the summer, saying people that did were violating local bylaws.

District council in Squamish has also considered plans to create designated areas for people to park and camp after seeing a sharp increase in the number of people living in their vehicles. Council said those areas would be low-cost or free.

The rise of RV dwellers across B.C.has been documented as a response to growing real estate prices, particularly in the Lower Mainland.