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Ucluelet tackles housing shortage with pilot project allowing people to live in RVs

Ucluelet is launching a pilot project to allow people to temporarily live in RVs, amid a significant housing shortage for seasonal workers.
Pat Kauwell, 64, is facing eviction from his RV on private property in the Nanaimo area, because living in the RV violates the zoning bylaws of the Regional District of Nanaimo.

Ucluelet is launching a pilot project to allow people to temporarily live in RVs, amid a significant housing shortage for seasonal workers.

The District of Ucluelet, with help from a local business group, is allowing property ­owners to apply for fast-tracked temporary-use permits that will allow people to live in RVs on a property for six months.

The permits can only be used to house workers and will be cancelled if they’re used for short-term rentals.

Laurie Filgiano, executive director of the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce, said more than two dozen permit applications were received by an April 16 deadline.

“That’s taking 24 people, potentially more … out of the back roads and into a legal, safe living environment,” she said.

Filgiano said every spring, online rental-accommodation listings are filled with requests from workers who have found a job in Ucluelet, but can’t find housing.

Locals are also affected by the housing shortage. “Locals also tend to get booted out of their winter living situation, because they have made an agreement with landlords ahead of time that they would move out come summer, so that landlords can [rent it out via] Airbnb,” she said.

Some people end up camping illegally on private properties or living in the back roads during the summer, Filgiano said.

The $350 temporary-use permit can be used for multiple sites on the same property. Council has waived a $500 public notice fee normally collected for this type of permit and ­expedited a process that would typically take a few months.

The district accepted applications during the first two weeks of April and expects to process the requests within a couple of weeks, Filgiano said.

Property owners applying for an application must demonstrate how sewage will be handled and are encouraged to speak to their neighbours about any concerns.

Filgiano credited Ucluelet council with recognizing the housing crunch and working to find solutions.

A Nanaimo city councillor is looking to the Ucluelet pilot project for answers to the city’s housing crisis.

Coun. Zeni Maartman is putting forward a motion to have staff prepare a report on how the city could create a similar project. Council has not yet voted on the motion.

Meanwhile, a man living year-round in his RV on private property in the Nanaimo area is facing eviction for violating the regional district’s zoning bylaws.

Pat Kauwell has been ­living in his RV on the edge of a 15-hectare farm on Maxey Road for about the last two and a half years. He moved to the property, owned by his son at the time, to help with the construction of a house.

His son has since sold the property to a new owner who has given Kauwell permission to continue living in his RV.

The 64-year-old said he likes living in his RV, and it costs him almost nothing. If he’s forced to move, he’ll either have to spend more to find an apartment in Nanaimo or uproot his RV and head to his son’s property on Sproat Lake, he said.

“If I could even afford to find an apartment, all of my pension would be gone,” Kauwell said.

Kauwell has been notified by the Regional District of Nanaimo that he’s not allowed to live in his RV on the property, because it’s zoned for residential use.

Paul Thompson, acting general manager of strategic and community development for the district, said the zoning bylaw requires residential use to occur in a dwelling, not a vehicle. Enforcement of the zoning bylaw is driven by complaints.

Kauwell said forcing him out of his RV amid a housing crisis doesn’t make sense.

“They have a homeless issue … and yet they want to contribute to it. You know, they’re just amplifying it,” he said.