Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. Contributed photo

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. Contributed photo

Council hits snooze on sleeping in cars bylaw

Council postpones decision on bylaw change until May

People who sleep in their cars will continue to be ticketed — at least until May.

Council recently voted for staff to report back on a motion to amend the city’s streets and traffic bylaw to halt handing out tickets to people for sleeping in cars, during its next quarterly update on Thursday, May 25.

According to staff, the issue is much more complex than simply deleting a rule, as there are two bylaws that would need to be amended.

“There are essentially two things at issue that both apply, one talks about licenced vehicles in the CRD — campers, trailers, motor homes, and then section 84 applies to sleeping on the street,” said city clerk Chris Coates.

“There are two different things that interrelate quite closely and they can, and also with the notion that the larger the recreational vehicle, it’s more difficuult to determine if it’s being occupied at night.”

Mayor Lisa Helps and Coun. Chris Coleman brought forward the motion in an attempt to deal with the affects of the region’s housing shortage.

With the city’s vacancy rate sitting at 0.5 per cent, more people are being forced to seek shelter in their cars. It’s a number that is only going up, according to a staff report. Last year, bylaw officers issued 176 tickets to people for sleeping in vehicles — more than double the 62 tickets issued in 2015. The highest number of tickets issued were in June, July, February and December.

The proposed motion would take affect when the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s vacancy rate remains below three per cent, and only between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

It’s an idea Coleman believes should at least be explored in response to the city’s low vacancy rate.

“The motivation to bring this forward in the first place was to try and find that balance, to show compassion … The intent was not to say bring your RVs down to Dallas Road,” Coleman said. “Would there be specific areas in town where we might completely exempt the bylaw? We need to find out what other options have been used in other areas and whether they have failed or worked.”

The fine for sleeping in a car is $75.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com