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Five Alternatives To Traditional Housing

by Chris Poindexter

The growth in America has been located primarily in the cities. With more millennials choosing not to drive cars, that has pushed rents and housing prices in America’s most popular cities to all time highs. The pain is widespread but not universal. Home prices are highest in California while people in Ohio have more options, but that is the exception. On average, housing affordability declined in 89 of 100 metropolitan areas. Of the top 10 most affordable places to live, four are in Ohio and two are in Missouri; not exactly places with a large inward population migration. Of the least affordable places to live, six are in California, one is in Hawaii and one in Florida.

With the exception of places no one really wants to live, Americans are stretching farther to meet that mortgage payment every month. Those escalating costs are forcing more people to consider alternative housing arrangements. Most of these would not work for families but, if you’re a single urban dweller, these might be worth a look, especially since rent increases are at 7 year highs.

Live In a Camper or RV

A small family or couple can live in an RV or camper; my wife and I did it for years. We found it superior to living in a traditional home or apartment in almost every way. We stayed in 4 and 5 star RV resorts at a cost that was a fraction of what we would have paid in rent to live in the same areas. Going from 1,750 square feet in our last house to 318 square feet in our camper was an adjustment, but we managed. I would do it again without a second thought. The only downside to RV living is you can only do it south of Tennessee in the winter or during the summers up north.

Live In a Van

For those who can get by without a bathroom or shower, some are opting to live in converted vans. Getting by without a bathroom can be overcome by “driveway surfing” with friends or staying at campgrounds and state parks. Tech writer Brent Rose shared his experiences tricking out a van as his house in a recent article for Wired. The advantages of a van over an RV or camper are the ability to park it virtually anywhere, you don’t need a car and it’s a small airspace to heat and cool. There are several websites devoted to conversion van living (http://www.cheaprvliving.com/live-conversion-van/) with many helpful ideas if you want to give it a try.

Live On a Boat

Many large metropolitan areas have marinas or boat docks and almost all of them will be sporting full-time liveaboards, people who live on their boats. Again, this is easier in parts of the country where the water doesn’t freeze. Boats offer the advantage that, if they’re mobile, you can do something called “living on the hook” or tying up at a mooring ball. If you’re going to live on the hook, you’d better enjoy solitude because you’re going to get a lot of that. Another option for living on a boat are barge houses. As the name implies, barge homes have to be towed from place to place but offer living space and amenities comparable to a small house. Living on a boat is, by far, the least expensive way to live on the waterfront.

Build a Tiny House

A tiny house is part RV, part house. Usually less than 250 square feet, they are mostly home-built by the people who live in them. Most are built on a trailer base so they can be moved. Many tiny house dwellers will partner up with a homeowner and either pay for a space to park their tiny house, along with water, sewer and electric connection or exchange services like house sitting or lawn maintenance in return for their parking space. Tiny homes face legal restrictions in some places but, since they’re made out of the same materials as a house and well insulated, they’re usually easy to heat and cool and manage winters just fine.

Live In a Warehouse Or Commercial Space

This can be fraught with legal and safety issues, but people do it. Do keep in mind that commercial properties don’t have to meet the same legal requirements for reporting hazards like heavy metals or other environmental contaminants. Warehouse living is particularly popular in the arts community, where artists need a lot of cheap space and just end up crashing there for longer and longer stretches of time.

These alternatives aren’t for everyone but, for a single person or couple tired of paying ever escalating rents, do have options to consider.

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