'Wheel Estate' Boom in California
by John Lawrence, January 10, 2018
The cost of real estate in California is so outrageous that many people are sleeping in their cars, RVs, vans, campers and even boats! So many people are one paycheck away from being pushed out on the streets because rents are sky high. Even the thought of ever owning a home is unthinkable for those mired in student loan debt. The solution for some is to move out of state to find cheaper housing. Or double and triple up with several families living under the same roof. The wealthy are upset at this development because they say, "Where are we going to get good workers from?" Well, in San Diego they are lucky to have Tijuana right next door. Many commute from there to work in San Diego, and many former San Diegans move down there where the rents are cheaper.
One person has a partial solution to this problem. He doesn't think "affordable housing" will ever amount to much of anything so here's Chris Reed's analysis from the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Here’s my confident prediction about how this problem will be dealt with by a growing number of Californians — not the destitute homeless, but single people with both low-paying and middle-income jobs. They’re going to decide to live in their cars, trucks, vans, campers and recreational vehicles — and once this demand is clear, automakers will start building more vehicles designed to be lived in, entrepreneurs will sell kits to convert existing vehicles into more comfortable homes and businesses will emerge that cater to vehicle dwellers’ needs.
Make sense? Already many people are living in vehicles - wheel estate. They're mobile. That's because the vehicle serves two functions: transportation and sleeping. I myself hit upon this solution many years ago, and lived in my vehicle for a year or more in two different time periods. I called it my WSUV - Work Sleep Utility Vehicle. It was a Ford van that had a little bit of conversion. The back windows opened slightly for ventilation. Then I would leave the front windows open a crack. Voila! No stuffiness. I rigged up a curtain between the driver and passenger's seats and the back part of the vehicle. I had extra tinting on the side windows so nobody could see in at night when I was sleeping. Voila! Privacy.
I had all my work stuff in there as well. I even had a small fridge working off a battery and a solar panel on the roof, but I didn't really need that. Four inches of foam on the floor covered by indoor outdoor carpeting made sleeping comfortable. I just threw down my sleeping bags. During the day I "deep sixed" my pillows (in the sleeping bags), pushed the sleeping bags aside, and I was ready for work.
A membership at the YMCA was essential for showering, shaving, teeth brushing. I had emergency bottles in case I needed to pee before I got there in the morning. Needless to say I parked fairly close to the Y. I usually chose a quiet residential neighborhood where I could blend in with the other vehicles parked there. I only had a problem twice in two years when I violated my own rules about parking. Once in a cul de sac where no other vehicles were parked, I got nailed by a Neighborhood Watch person who called the police. Another time I parked in front of a mansion, and there were no other vehicles around.
The nice thing about the WSUV was that I could travel, and I had my own sleeping accommodations with me. I took a three week trip to Oregon one time and explored the state. Since Y membership is good anywhere in the country, I got to know the Portland Y very well. I also had room for meal time provisions in the vehicle although I usually went to Starbucks for a Venti Mocha in the morning. Kern's juices I bought by the gross.
I had a storage room for those items that I couldn't take with me as well as those items from my former life that would be useful if I ever chose to be "homed" again, extra clothes etc. A cell phone kept me in touch with the world. Who needs a landline any more? It was my business line as well as my customers could call me without my needing a home address. Who needs it?
My daily routine consisted of waking early so as not to call attention from the surrounding neighbors, drive to the Y, pee, swim laps, comb my hair, brush my teeth, put on my work clothes and go off to work. I had a window cleaning business so my ladders were always on the roof of the WSUV. I also was a painting contractor for 9 years, but got tired of the fumes and the larger jobs that took a week or more. Window jobs I finished in a day or did two a day of the smaller jobs.
I called it "distributed living" and "urban camping." I didn't "live" in my vehicle. I just slept there and used it for work and travel. I "lived" in many different places that had many different functions. Don't get hung up on the idea that you need to "live" in your vehicle. Ditch the RV and the camper. All this angst about where to park your RV is avoidable if you use my method. Don't use a camper or an RV. Those are just too obvious. I had a Ford van on one occasion, a Ford Supervan (extra length) on another with markings on the side of a work vehicle. I blended in. It worked 99% of the time. Only on two occasions was I inconvenienced by the police, and then it didn't amount to anything. I just "moved on" to another parking place.
I wasn't so-called "working poor." At the time I was living in my vehicle I was also a landlord. I always said, I'd rather collect rent than pay it. I was able to save money instead of paying every cent I made for a car or house payment. I heartily recommend this method for those who want to get ahead. I even dated during this period. I would just rent a car for those occasions.
A new report showed that California is the most impoverished state in the union with one in five residents struggling to pay bills. The denouement is simple. Don't pay rent. Don't make a car payment. Don't pay a fortune in interest to Wall Street banks. Use your vehicle for work and sleep. Use the Y for cleaning up and exercising. Get a mailbox. Use a former address or friend's address for those situations where you have to have a permanent home address. There are workarounds for every situation. I was totally happy and comfortable with this solution, and I saved a lot of money.
Stay tuned. There's also an important movement known as "living in your office." There's nothing like killing two birds with one stone!
Let's give Chris Reed the last word:
Jessica Bruder, author of a new book called “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century,” says employed people living in their vehicles have become more prevalent in the U.S. since the Great Recession. This is from a book excerpt in The Guardian, a London newspaper:
During three years of research for my book ... I spent time with hundreds of people who had arrived at the same answer. They gave up traditional housing and moved into “wheel estate”: RVs, travel trailers, vans, pickup campers, even a salvaged Prius and other sedans. For many, sacrificing some material comforts had allowed them to survive, while reclaiming a small measure of freedom and autonomy.
This is increasingly common in expensive parts of California, as the San Jose Mercury News reported earlier this month:
From Oakland to San Jose, officials are struggling to cope with a growing influx of RV dwellers seeking a safe, permanent place for the only homes they can afford. ...
RV communities have popped up everywhere ... from abandoned department store parking lots in Oakland to the streets around high-tech campuses in Silicon Valley.
Most RV residents work, including some with high-paying tech jobs who have chosen to downsize ... . Others are working poor, priced out of Bay Area apartments.
This week, the London Daily Mail made the same point:
The rising cost of rent and housing in California is forcing residents into alternative accommodation with middle-class workers taking up residence in their cars and RVs by the side of the road to make ends meet.
Hundreds of people, including nurses and chefs, are sleeping in parking lots in affluent areas like Santa Barbara as they make the most of the only homes they can afford.
What’s striking in California is that many communities already accept people living in vehicles, despite there often being rules or laws against it. This fall, the city of San Diego expanded its Safe Parking Program, which designates lots that can be used by those living out of their cars, and many other cities have similar programs. Under a law passed last year, Los Angeles also allows overnight parking in some commercial districts. In Mountain View, the mayor brags about the services his city provides to those living in more than 330 cars, trucks and RVs.