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Seasonal workers living in vehicles can park in Canmore, Alta., on a trial basis

Canmore program will allow up to 20 vehicles at a time to register in several public and private lots.

Pilot program regulates parking lot use and imposes $10 nightly fee

Dan Markey, who was living out of his RV in Canmore last year, estimates up to 10 people live like he does during the winter season. (Elizabeth Withey/CBC)

The town of Canmore, Alta., will begin a pilot program to allow workers who live in their vehicles to stay in designated parking lots.

According to the town, the pilot program addresses a housing need for seasonal workers. However, it was delayed after the pandemic struck last year.

Canmore and Bow Valley businesses depend on staff from around the world in the summer when tourists flock to the Rockies. Despite that need, temporary and affordable housing is hard to find for these workers.

There was a noticeable increase in people living out of cars and campers in 2018, especially in a parking lot by the Canmore Save-On-Foods. 

The town found that some of these so-called "Vanmore" residents were tourists passing through, looking for a free place to stay. Others were experiencing homelessness. Another portion were seasonal workers who couldn't find temporary housing. 

Community social development manager Lisa Brown said the Safe Park Pilot program targets those temporary workers.

"Housing affordability, it's a significant community issue," Brown said. "Our housing, according to the Alberta spatial price index, is 240 per cent above the municipal average."

Applications are open, and the pilot begins June 15 and ends Sept. 15.

Only 20 spaces available

This year, there are 20 spaces available at any time, and vehicles will spread out between various locations. As a health and safety measure, Brown said, only five vehicles will be allowed per parking lot.

Under the program, the applicant must provide proof of employment in the Bow Valley, with an average of 20 work hours per week. If pandemic layoffs persist, those situations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Those using these stalls will be charged $10 per night and receive a parking permit. The minimum stay is two weeks.

Applicants must have a working vehicle and a valid driver's licence. 

WATCH | This feature was shot last year. Since then, the town has opted to reduce the number of pilot participants:

Canmore pilot project aims to address 'Vanmore' residents who rely on vans for housing

2 years ago
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Canmore pilot project aims to address 'Vanmore' residents who rely on vans for housing 2:21

More information is available on the Town of Canmore website. 

So far, Brown said, demand for the program is low, because of current provincial health restrictions and travel restrictions.

"The seasonal workforce is just so much in flux," Brown said. "So we thought, let's start small. Make sure that we can be sustainable, and the next year expand, hopefully, to the 50 spots that we were originally planning for."

If demand increases, the program is flexible and could scale up. 

Pilot will be reviewed

Officials will evaluate the pilot throughout the summer and fall.

"So [we'll be] looking at the number of people who use the program, if there were any complaints or concerns, the number of individuals who are sleeping in their vehicle outside of the program, things like that," Brown said. 

After the pilot ends in September, the results will be presented to the Canmore town council to determine the program's next steps.

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