British Columbia

You aren't allowed to live in your RV year round, regional district warns

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District is cracking down on people converting campers to cabins and motorhomes to permanent homes.

'People are doing things like installing wood-burning stoves ... they're really moving in'

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District says an increasing number of people are living in RVs and trailers year round, in violation of local bylaws. (Thompson-Nicola Regional District)

RVs are not houses and old campers are not cabins.

That's the message from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, which is cracking down on the use of recreational vehicles as permanent dwellings in B.C.'s Interior.

Regina Sadilkova, the director of development services for the district, said people living in recreational vehicles are an ongoing problem, but one that seems to be growing.

"There's always more and more used recreational vehicles that may not be roadworthy for sale for less and less money. so they buy them, they park them," she told CBC Daybreak Kamloops guest host Rob Polson.

"Then they start building onto them: Decks, porches, roofs."

Sadilkova said aside from being unsightly, the souped-up dwellings fail to comply with the standards required for permanent homes, such as having a proper sewer or septic hookup. 

She also said many of the vehicles are parked along lakes or rivers, which poses environmental concerns.

Finally, she said that unlike a new out-building or home expansion, RVs and trailers do not add to property values, so the regional district is missing out on revenue it needs to operate.

'We have a housing crisis'

Not everyone agrees with the regional district's message.

Merlin Blackwell, the mayor of neighbouring Clearwater, said most people in his community are supportive of allowing people to live in RVs and trailers year-round.

"We have a housing crisis in this province," he said. "There really isn't a lot of housing."

Blackwell said he's interested in exploring all options for adding housing stock, and the community already has a "tiny home district" zoned for homes on lots as small as 400 square feet, and that both Clearwater and the regional district are undertaking a housing needs review.

Affordable housing or an eyesore?

Across the country, local governments have been grappling with how to handle people moving into recreational vehicles on a permanent basis.

A Calgary man managed to pay off $85,000 in debt by moving into a trailer and parking outside big box stores or industrial areas around the city.

In Saskatchewan, the Rural Municipality of Mervin changed its zoning bylaw so that landowners living in trailers or campers have to apply for a $200 permit to stay on some lakeside properties.

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

Several vans and RVs on Glen Drive in Vancouver are creating garbage and safety problems, some local businesses say. (CBC)

But that rise has come with an increase in the number of garbage, rats and other problems, according to residents of neighbourhoods where RVs congregate. 

Sadilkova said the regional district would work with social agencies to find placements for people who are genuinely unable to afford a place to live in the Thomson-Nicola region.

But, she said, most of the people she's found violating the rules do have the means to live elsewhere and are simply choosing not to.

She warned that people living in recreational vehicles are subject to tickets of up to $250, and that repeat offenders could be taken to court.

Sadilkova also said that, while in the past the regional district has only responded to complaints about people living in RVs and trailers, its elected board of directors have now directed staff to be more proactive in enforcing regulations as  illegal dwellings grow in number — and in size.

"People are doing things like installing wood-burning stoves," she said. "They're really moving in."

Blackwell said he sympathized with the regional district, and neighbours concerned at having year-round RVs in areas that aren't equipped to handle them.

"We really need to find a different solution other than having people living year-round in RVs, because it isn't a great way to live."

The Thompson Nicola Regional District has noticed more and more people living in large RVs instead of homes, but out of concern for safety, staff are cracking down on this. 6:47
 
Clearwater mayor Merlin Blackwell says people in his community are particularly concerned by the TNRD's move to stop people from living in RVs full time. However, he thinks he may have a solution. 6:45

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Interviews produced for Daybreak Kamloops by Jenifer Norwell.

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With files from Jenifer Norwell and Daybreak Kamloops

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