Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

The Regional District of Nanaimo says there’s no home on the range for people living in RVs.

Patrick Kauwell has lived for two years in his fifth-wheel trailer on the edge of a 15-hectare farm on Maxey Road, but now must pull up stakes and move.

The farm was owned by Kauwell’s son who planned to build a house there, but abandoned those plans when he bought a house elsewhere in Nanaimo and sold the farm in December.

Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager who moved his 12-metre-long fifth wheel to the property when his son prepared the site to build on, arranged with the new owners to pay a small amount of rent to remain there.

But the property falls under Regional District of Nanaimo jurisdiction and a land-use bylaw which permits residential use on the property, but only for pre-fabricated mobile homes and homes on foundations.

“It’s a working farm, but because it doesn’t fit within the bylaws of the RDN, living in an RV, that’s the reason that they’ve given,” Kauwell said.

The RDN has sent a letter to the property owners advising them they could be fined if Kauwell’s RV isn’t moved by May 1.

Paul Thompson, RDN acting general manager of strategic and community development, said dwellings that are lived in continuously must meet B.C.’s building code standards.

“That’s standard right across the regional district and that’s pretty standard right across the province where there’s zoning in place … and that’s been the case for many years,” Thompson said. “This particular property’s not unique in any way. People are looking all over the place to put their RV … It’s just because of the zoning and it requires you actually live in a dwelling, not in a recreational vehicle.”

Cowichan Valley Regional District has similar bylaws as does the City of Nanaimo, but there are exceptions, such as when a property owner is building a house.

“You can use RVs for temporary accommodation during the construction of a house, if there’s a building permit, etc. …” said Dave LaBerge, Nanaimo’s manager of bylaw services and community safety. “Otherwise you can use a recreational vehicle for temporary accommodation on a single residential lot for a maximum of 42 days in a calendar year.”

Property owners also can’t rent out RVs as dwellings and the same rules apply to campgrounds and RV parks.

“Not to say there aren’t people living in RVs in RV parks, but officially, it’s not really allowed,” Thompson said.

Kauwell said he doesn’t want to leave the property where he can afford the rent, but he also hasn’t been able to find another spot for his RV locally in spite of searching extensively. Even if he could find a pad in an RV park, he said current pad rental rates would consume much of his monthly pension income.

Pad rental rates have increased based on supply and demand caused by a real estate and rental housing shortages.

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Darren Krivoshein moved to Nanaimo from Abbotsford with his wife and two children in 2020 after landing a job here. They planned to live in their fifth wheel temporarily while they searched for a home or purchased property to build on. So far they’ve been unable to find property to buy or find a spot where they can legally live in their RV. They have managed to rent a pad temporarily in Cedar for $850 a month.

“What I dislike here is my neighbour is paying … $425 for her pad fee,” Krivoshein said. “Mine is $850, so doubled. This is what’s happening all over the place right now, is they’re cashing in on taking advantage of the supply and demand.”

Krivoshein has hunted for availability in RV parks and campgrounds from Duncan to Parksville and found some have 400-person wait lists for a site.

“It’s beyond crazy,” he said.

As is the Island real estate market Krivoshein has been trying to purchase in for more than a year.

“It’s just gotten really discouraging and there’s too many bid wars going on,” he said. “That’s another story in itself.”

As for illegal RV living, LaBerge and Thompson said local governments aren’t out searching for incidents of people living in RVs and most enforcement is complaint-driven.

“If nobody complains, we’re not going to go looking for it,” LaBerge said.


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