Skip to content

Bowen won't adopt seasonal worker housing project this year

Muni cites low uptake in Ucluelet case study and lack of time remaining this summer

Bowen won’t be moving ahead with a seasonal worker housing pilot project this summer, but left the door open to implementing it next year.

The municipality (BIM) was exploring whether temporary use permits (TUP) for recreational vehicles or trailers could help housing needs for summer workers coming to the island. A similar project implemented in the Vancouver Island town of Ucluelet last summer caught the eye of council earlier this year, as both communities struggle with seasonal worker influxes and not enough housing to support new residents.

The Ucluelet TUP pilot project allowed the fast tracking of applications for people to occupy an RV on a property (with the owner’s support) for up to six months, a timeframe chosen to mirror the typical summer worker season. One RV was allowed per property, and applicants had to prove sufficient hookups to necessities such as water, sewage and electricity.

The typical $500 TUP application fee was waived, but a $1,000 security deposit still applied. Consultation with neighbours was encouraged, but not a condition.

BIM staff were asked last month to find out how the project went in Ucluelet last year. Island community planner Natasha Cheong presented the findings to council June 13, and it turned out uptake was lower than Ucluelet was hoping for: of 11 total applications there were nine approved by council. Of those, just three applicants followed through to obtain their permits.

This led Ucluelet to conclude that “although housing three seasonal workers was a positive outcome, the project involved considerable staff time and associated costs. In light of this, district staff recommended the project not be repeated the following year (2022).”

Feedback that could explain the lack of participation included people saying the six-month timeline was too short, the $1,000 security deposit was too much, and both property and RV owners said they objected to municipal inspections of their setups.

While they scrapped the overall project, Ucluelet still encouraged people to apply for the TUPs on an individual basis this year, and the same three people obtained permits for the 2022 summer season.

While their municipality again said housing three people is better than none, they say three permits per year shows “TUPs are a temporary band-aid to address the affordability crisis, and reiterate the importance of focusing on developing long-term housing solutions.”

Cheong said regardless of what Bowen’s numbers would look like, at this point in the summer there wasn’t time to develop a well thought out plan for a mass application initiative before council’s August recess.

“We believe this short timeline is unrealistic, as it’s even shorter than Ucluelet’s two-month timeline, which as previously stated was too short,” said Cheong, adding a rushed plan could result in problems that negatively impact any chance at the project’s success in the future.

Cheong says the municipality can still consider TUP applications on an individual basis, like Ucluelet is now doing moving forward.  

Council was in unanimous agreement with the suggestions. “I think it’s very clear that it’s not a viable project for this summer on Bowen, but the conversation you’ve had with the folks in Ucluelet makes this potentially worth doing in the coming year,” said Coun. Maureen Nicholson.

The idea will be brought back to Council’s 2023 strategic planning session. A preliminary timeline for the project would see applications open in January with a March deadline, a review session in April, and TUP approvals in May for the summer season.