‘You have to start somewhere’: Ucluelet lets workers live in RVs due to housing shortage

'You have to start somewhere': Ucluelet lets workers live in RVs due to housing shortage

As the owner of Heartwood Kitchen and Shipwreck Pizza, chef Ian Riddick is a familiar face around Ucluelet.

But he still remembers his first trip to the coast with a friend in the 1990s — and camping in their van. Decades later, that style of camping has now become a necessity for many who work in the seaside town.

“I don’t get too fired up when I hear about transients and people travelling here because the spirit of the West Coast, this is how a lot of us were introduced to the area,” said Riddick.

That’s why the chef is welcoming the District of Ucluelet’s new six-month pilot project in which property owners can apply for temporary use permits and allow people to live in RVs on their properties.

It’s a short-term fix to the extreme shortage of rental housing, and high prices that have forced many seasonal workers into illegal camping situations.

“There are definitely employees that are living kind of off-the-grid,” said Riddick.

According to Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noel, the pilot project is a simple solution to an immediate need.

“Without building the big apartment building tomorrow, what can we do with RVs?” he asked. “So the planning department put together a very quick, short time frame allowing residents to apply to put one RV on their property.”

In the past, a temporary use permit would take many months to process and would cost $500 to advertise, in addition to the $350 permitting fee, according to Laurie Filgiano, the executive director of the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce.

With the new pilot program, Filgiano says they are able to reduce the processing time to weeks and the fee to a flat $350.

“We have a tremendous amount of people who live on the back roads during the summer, because we just don’t have enough housing,” said Filgiano. “But this program is a way for people to camp legally and safely.”

“You have to start somewhere. The real estate market is just crazy out here. It’s booming,” said Riddick.

Ucluelet residents can start applying for permits as soon as April 16. and temporary use permits will be issued in May.

Riddick will be one of those putting his name in. The employer of 30 workers says he has never forgotten his humble start in the town that he now calls home.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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