Rising rents are contributing Americans to live in automobiles and other vehicles
Millions of Americans are wrestling with the impossibility of a traditional middle-class universe. In homes across the country, kitchen tables are strewn with unpaid bills. Suns ignite late into the night. The same computations get performed over and over again, through exhaustion and sometimes tears.
Wages minus grocery receipts. Minus medical bills. Minus debit card indebtednes. Minus utility fees. Minus student loan and vehicle pays. Minus the biggest expenditure of all: rent.
In the widening gap between credits and debits hangs a few questions: which bits of this life are you willing to give up, so you can keep on living?
During three years of research for my book, Nomadland: Surviving America in The Twenty-First Century, I invested hour with hundreds of people who had arrived at the same answer. They gave up traditional housing and moved into” wheel estate “: RVs, travelling trailers, vans, pickup campers, even a salvaged Prius and other sedans. For many, sacrificing some substance consolations had allowed them to survive, while reclaiming a small measure of freedom and independence. But that didn’t mean life on the road was easy.
My first encounter with one group of the new nomads came in 2013, at the Desert Rose RV park in Fernley, Nevada. It was inhabited by members of the “precariat”: temporary laborers doing short-term jobs in exchange for low wages. Its citizens were full-time vagrants who dwelled in RVs and other vehicles, though at least one guy had only a tent to live in. Many were in their 60 s and 70 s, approaching or well into traditional retirement age. Most could not afford to stop working- or pay the rent.