Bylaw officials on the Saanich Peninsula have seen an apparent increase in the number of individuals living in their vehicles, but the full extent of the issue is not clear.
“We have seen an increase in individuals living in vehicles and RVs, however, we do not have statistics on this,” said Paula Kully, Sidney’s communication coordinator.
While the specific extent and cause is not clear, research has historically linked this phenomenon to individuals struggling with housing affordability and homelessness. A related question concerns what if any role COVID-19 has played in exacerbating pre-existing causes of housing affordability and homelessness.
Sidney’s streets and traffic regulation bylaw states that “no person shall use any vehicle or trailer parked on a street for the purpose of lodging, sleeping accommodation or a residence” with the initial fine for sleeping in a vehicle being $65 or $50 if paid within 30 days.
Neighbouring North Saanich has also seen what Rebecca Penz, manager of communications, described as “a modest increase in complaints last year which may be a result of the impacts of COVID-19.”
North Saanich prohibits individuals from living in a tent or trailer. “The property owners can be fined; however, the district’s approach is to work to achieve voluntary compliance,” said Penz.
Looking elsewhere on Saanich Peninsula, Central Saanich does not permitted persons to occupy a trailer or motor home on property that is not zoned for a recreational vehicle campground or travel accommodation whether it’s their own property or not, said Britt Burnham, manager of community services.
The fine for such a non-permitted use is $500 per day, while the fine for parking to sleep is $50 per day, said Burnham, adding that the municipality has not had many complaints about this issue in pegging the total number of cases at seven for the “past few years.”
COVID-19, she added, has not changed the neither number of complaints nor the severity of the issue.
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