Amid a housing crisis in Victoria, the city’s mayor wants to stop giving tickets to people who’ve been forced to sleep in their cars.
Lisa Helps says a lot of people have moved to the city for work, but with a rental vacancy rate hovering around 0.5 per cent, many find themselves with no option but to sleep in their vehicles.
That’s costing some of them dearly, with 176 tickets handed out last year – nearly three times as many as the year before.
“The last thing we want is to increase someone’s unemployment just because they’re being disturbed in the middle of the night and told to move their vehicle. So it’s not about a message, it’s that we need people to be able to sleep so they can be rested so they can go to work,” Helps says.
Currently, Victoria’s Streets and Traffic Bylaw forbids sleeping overnight in a vehicle, or parking a camper van between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
A ticket for the former will net you a $40 fine, while the latter is worth $60.
Helps says there’s a construction boom underway for new housing, but she wants the ticket bylaw to be suspended so long as the city’s vacancy rate is below three per cent.
“If people are working, they need a place to sleep. [A] car is not ideal, but until some of these holes in the ground, and they’re on almost every corner, until some of these holes in the ground turn into apartments and condos, people need to be rested when they’re going to work.”
The reworked bylaw would allow people to sleep in their cars between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Council will hear the proposal Thursday, and if approved, Helps says she hopes to see the exemption in place within about a month.