Surrey to vote on banning people from occupying RVs overnight on city streets

UPDATE: On Oct. 21, Surrey city council voted to send the proposal to make sleeping in a camper van or R.V. overnight while parked on a city street illegal back to city staff.

City council in Surrey, B.C., will vote Monday on a staff proposal to ban people from sleeping in RVs, camper vans and other large vehicles parked overnight on city streets. 

The staff report from the city's corporate services and engineering departments recommends prohibiting such vehicles from being occupied while parked between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

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

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

Bylaws currently allow some large vehicles to park on city roads for up to 72 hours.

The report also says that 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. 

Lack of housing

Mike Musgrove, executive director of the Surrey Urban Mission, says the proposal is ill-timed. 

"There's no housing available. And people are trying to be creative about how they exist and live," Musgrove said.

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

Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC

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

But Musgrove says new public housing projects have yet to break ground. 

"We're kind of going after the people that are suffering the most," he said. 

Province-wide issue

Other cities in and around the Lower Mainland have also proposed or implemented bans on people sleeping or living in RVs and camper vans. 

Earlier this year, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District cracked down on the use of recreational vehicles as permanent dwellings in B.C.'s Interior.

In Squamish, district council has considered plans to create more designated, low-cost or free areas for people to park and camp after what some officials considered a sharp increase in the number of people living out of their vehicles.

Businesses and residents in Vancouver have also complained about the rising number of van dwellers. The City of Vancouver has said it's aware of the issue, but it does not ticket people living inside vehicles.