I had never come across the term “Vehicle Ranchers” until yesterday. Yes, I have been in campgrounds, for a quick overnight stay, where I have seen terribly run-down RVs. And, no doubt, some owners that have no other option but to live out of them full-time. A far cry from the lifestyle that most of us would associate with being on the road in our coaches.
Just another way to describe slum landlords.
Across the nation, people are discovering just how much an RV can become a home. Full-timers have known this for ages, and snowbird RVers may spend months calling their RV “home.” But a new breed of Americans is taking up RV living and, for them, it isn’t a life of sights on the road, visiting National Parks, nor spending a wonderful night around the campfire with new friends. For these RV dwellers, it’s $10-a-day to rent an RV on a back street, ducking police and angry neighbors, and fighting bedbugs and other vermin. These unfortunates are homeless people, in a strange, symbiotic relationship with a new breed of slumlords called Vehicle Ranchers.
Richard Winn considered himself a decent landlord, particularly in a cutthroat rental market like Seattle’s.
Sometimes his tenants did not pay their $75 weekly rent, and weren’t required to sign a lease or put down a deposit.
But there were trade-offs. Winn never gave residents keys to their units. Tenants were not to use the toilets. If they did, Winn asked them to put their waste in a bag.
And sometimes Winn disabled the power, because his tenants might drive away. All of his units were RVs scattered along the side and main streets in the industrial neighborhoods of north Seattle.
“The homeless, you know, they’ll take advantage of you if you don’t keep things straight,” said Winn, 63.
Winn is a key landlord in Seattle’s underground, unregulated market of “vehicle ranching,” the renting of RVs and other vehicles to homeless people.
In Canada, we are seeing a trend in the major cities where the price of housing is effectively blocking out an entire generation of people from owning a home.
In my country’s biggest market — Toronto — the cost of owning a home takes up to 79 per cent of the median household income of $71,631.
It is much worse in Vancouver where the cost of owning a home takes up 88 per cent of the median income of $77,410.
Given our tax burden, middle income households just starting out will never be able to own a home in our major cities.
This is madness brought on by government policies on interest rates, lax regulations on foreign capital and foreign investment in Canadian real estate, money laundering and speculators.
Where we are staying, just north of Barrie, there are several people, not retired, still working, living out of an RV. Perhaps it was a lifestyle choice but I suspect we will begin to see more people, shut out of the housing market, choosing to live out of an RV not by choice but out of necessity.