He thought he'd found a solution for an affordable home. A zoning bylaw has put that at risk

When Mark Davis found an RV rental pad in West Kelowna that only cost $530 a month three years ago, he figured he had it made. 

Davis, 41, had moved to the Interior with his two Labrador retrievers to be closer to family and finding an affordable home to rent in the picturesque Okanagan town was nearly impossible. So he figured he'd make his RV his home.

"It's nice and big and it's more than adequate," Davis said of his 40-foot fifth-wheel. "I have an easy time living in it."

Shortly after he moved into the Greenbay Mobile Home Park, Davis planted an apple tree, built a fence and a new patio to carve out a home for himself among the willow trees.

Mark Davis

But all of Davis's work may soon go to waste. The City of West Kelowna says RVs don't belong in its manufactured home parks.

Mark Koch, West Kelowna's director of development services, says it's a zoning issue. 

"Properties need to be used in accordance with the zone that municipalities set for them," Koch said.

Zoning bylaws allow municipalities to restrict what types of homes are allowed in different parts of a city, including their size and types of accommodations.

West Kelowna's Manufactured Home Park Zone restricts "mobile homes" to a maximum height of five metres. 

Temporary permit granted

Last summer Davis's landlord, Ted Wenner, applied for and was granted a temporary use permit to keep the RV on site. The permit was set to expire next month.

The city has granted Wenner a two-month extension because of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Davis and Wenner are anxiously waiting on a decision for a new temporary permit.

"I was so upset about the whole thing. It just didn't make any sense to me," Wenner said, adding that most of the 50-year-old homes in the park don't conform to the city's zoning requirements. 

Ted Wenner

This isn't the first time an RV dweller has bumped up against municipal bylaws. 

The West Kelowna case highlights the ongoing tension between municipalities eager to limit the use of RVs as permanent homes, people increasingly living in RVs because of the housing crisis, and the province's attempt to protect tenants' rights.

Defining a manufactured home

Paul Lagace, a poverty advocate who often works with RV dwellers, says the province's Residential Tenancy Branch has made it clear that recreational vehicles can count as permanent homes in a mobile home park. 

"[City staff] are saying they know better than the province what a manufactured home is. And that's just simply not true," Lagace said.

But West Kelowna's Koch says this isn't a tenancy issue — it's a land use issue, and local governments have the right to set their own rules.

Davis and Wenner say they don't know why the city is enforcing the bylaw, especially in the midst of the province's ongoing housing crisis. Wenner says Davis has been an exemplary long-term tenant. 

Property value worries

Letters sent to city council last summer as part of deliberations regarding the temporary use permit reveal some nearby residents' concerns about having RV dwellers as neighbours. 

"This proposal will only benefit one individual while continuing to lower the property values of everyone else," wrote Diane Rinn, whose waterfront property sits across from the mobile home park. 

Mark Davis

Other neighbours wrote about their concerns regarding the transient nature of RVs. 

"There are issues in a community when that is allowed — no sense of community, no pride in ownership, no neighbourhood, safety risks," wrote Karen Christiansen and Jerry Redman of nearby Greenbay Landing. 

Even some of the residents of the manufactured home park wrote to council, concerned about what would happen if the complex would be taken over by more RVs. 

'I'm not a bad guy'

Davis says the improvements he's made to his lot speak to his long-term intentions. He says he even rebuilt a dock to the canal that splits the park in half.

He's not sure what he'll do if he's not allowed to stay. Other RV parks nearby are either full or don't allow pets. 

"I'm not a bad guy or anything," Davis said."It's just, I guess, the stigma that you have to live with if you live in a trailer."