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EDITORIAL: Time for Alberni govt’s to deal with RVs used as housing

Two examples show disadvantages of ‘permanent’ housing on wheels
Randy Brown, owner of Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue, has five trailers and a motorhome at the back of his property that he is renting to people who had been previously homeless. He wants to put 15 trailers on his property, hooked up to city sewer and water and BC Hydro. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The issue of recreational vehicles reared up last week after the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board revealed that Hollies Golf Course on the Alberni Highway has too many for its temporary permit—and its permit had lapsed anyway.

Across town, more than eight months have passed since a ragtag collection of secondhand recreational vehicles appeared on a Fourth Avenue property owned by Randy Brown, who has owned a number of nuisance buildings within City of Port Alberni limits.

The two situations may seem different—indeed, they involve two different municipal governments—but they both boil down to housing issues. The owner of the Hollies golf course said they were trying to give people a housing option during COVID-19 restrictions. Brown, meanwhile, claims to be providing housing for the hard-to-house.

In their own ways, each RV settlement presents dangers from overcrowding. A fire last month at the Fourth Avenue site could have been catastrophic given the squashed setup of units and presence of propane tanks. While the atmosphere at the Hollies site is vastly different, the same danger exists.

Motorhome fires burn quickly and devastatingly. A couple of years ago a motorhome stored beside a house on the Alberni Highway not too far past Hollies caught fire and the column of black noxious smoke could be seen for kilometres.

Last month a van turned into a living space caught fire at the Whiskey Creek Co-op gas station and the entire gas station went up in flames.

Fortunately neither incident resulted in injury, but people were lucky.

Eight months is too long to allow an illegal RV site to continue operating with seeming impunity. Cramming in more motorhomes on a legal site than is permitted isn’t much better.

If the city and regional district are to look at motorhomes as a viable housing alternative, even temporarily, their respective bylaws need to be firm, promote safety and complement each other.

— Alberni Valley News

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