Years ago when a friend decided to build a new house, he moved his family of five from a two-level, 2,500 square foot home into a worn and weathered 800 square foot single-wide trailer next to a chicken barn on a rural farm property.
For over two years his brood endured the cramped quarters, teasing by friends, the stench of chicken manure, long commutes to work and school, as well as other inconveniences for the ultimate payoff of a brand-new dwelling in a nice suburb. The irony of it all is that every one of them admitted that living in that stuffy old trailer was one of the best experiences their family has ever had.
To be sure, living in a manufactured home or recreational vehicle (RV) is not for everyone. However, there are thousands of people who reside in trailer parks, as well as RVs for all or part of the year in every part of our province and absolutely love it. In fact, in many areas along the new pipeline route, there are hundreds of RVs and trailers of all shapes and sizes on private land and in campgrounds that have become thriving communities on their own.
I know of a church camp near Hope where pipeline workers from all over Canada have established temporary roots replete with an activities hall, frisbee golf, and other amenities to pass the time between one shift and the next. By all accounts, this makeshift trailer court is friendly, quiet, safe, convenient, and more than adequate as a home away from home.
So at a time when our province is challenged by substantial housing shortages, why don’t more communities allow solutions such as manufactured homes, recreational vehicles or modified shipping containers on a temporary (i.e. for a prescribed period of time) basis for seasonal workers such as those in the tourism and hospitality sector?
We’ve long heard that one of the biggest obstacles to attracting and retaining workers is finding adequate and affordable housing. While some people are willing to commute long distances for work and others don’t mind sharing accommodation even if it requires sleeping four to a room, there are other options like the one above that should be considered.
I discussed the issue of municipalities in many parts of the province failing to consider temporary accommodation of any kind with Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon a couple of months ago. Since then, TIABC completed a quick scan of several regions to determine which communities ban or permit temporary housing and any conditions attached therein. We subsequently submitted a briefing note with background information and recommendations to Minister Kahlon for review and consideration just prior to the UBCM housing summit in Vancouver last week and will be following up shortly to see what, if anything, the province chooses to do.
Obviously allowing modified shipping containers or trailers is not the panacea for solving all affordable housing problems but it could at least help many resort communities in particular reasonably house seasonal workers during the peak season.
To be fair, there are challenges regarding utilities (e.g. sewer, water), safety, noise, parking and other community concerns, but all can be overcome with political will, creativity and of course partnerships with tourism operators and/or the local business community. One only needs to look at the resource sector and their temporary housing camps to learn best practices and ways to resolve issues.
While it wasn’t exactly ideal for long-term living with kids that were growing up quickly, my buddy’s temporary trailer home provided a place for his family to live during a time when they needed it most, even if it meant being called TT by some of his so-called friends.