When she was moving from Strathmore to Airdrie in 2015 to take care of her elderly family members, she would have never fathomed that she would end up living in a Recreational vehicle (R.V.) simply because she couldn't find a rental property that fit her budget.
S., whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons, said that when she first moved to Airdrie after selling her own home, she was able to find a rental property by way of a family friend, but it didn't last long before she found herself among numerous other tenants whose landlords were selling properties and giving notice.
"We had a set amount of time - a lease, [but] with the market getting so hot, he decided he wanted to sell and not honour the lease date. My husband and I were both in school, so we didn't have an income," she said. "We have three dogs and four kids, so it's next to impossible to find a place to rent."
One of the few prospective rental properties that she did manage to find was just outside of South Calgary. The monthly price was $2,500 for rent. That price did not include any utilities.
"We made the decision to look into RV living for the time being because then that way, we weren't paying anybody else's mortgage and we didn't have to worry about the dog damaging anything or the kids wrecking anything."
The family has been living in the R.V. for a few months now and she estimates the living space in the R.V. amounts to 700 square feet, including a living room, kitchen, and bathroom, as well as a master bedroom and a separate loft space for the kids.
"The service guy said it was probably close to the same size as his apartment."
Though living in an R.V. wasn't part of their living plans, S. said the idea excited her, especially the idea of being free. However, she admitted it has been a much harder thing for her children to adjust to.
"Two of my children share the loft and they're 14 and 12. My 14-year-old doesn't love it because she doesn't have her own private space. She says she's embarrassed to have like friends over."
While the price of the R.V. was close to $129 thousand dollars, S. currently pays less in fees to the RV park she currently resides in, than she would for the rental property in Calgary and those fees encompass a water hook-up, wi-fi connection, as well as electricity. Apart from the R.V. park fees, the family is also paying monthly installments for the R.V. itself.
"It's not a ton cheaper, but [right now] it's the only option," S. said.
Because S. and her family are new to the R.V. life, there were many things they learned on the go and many of those things had additional costs.
"We obviously need full hookups year round. We are at Spring Hill R.V. Park just outside of Cochrane and it is the only place around that I have found that has running water in the winter. For us, with the kids, that was key," she said. "A lot of the R.V. parks are open in the winter, but they only bring in water once or twice a week and some of them don't even bring in water."
The vehicle also had to be winterized and a special heating cord had to be purchased for the pipes so that when the winter comes they don't freeze or burst.
Although S. has solved the conundrum of a place to live, at least for the short term, there were other sacrifices she's had to make, including moving her business from Airdrie to Cochrane.
"I think people that are stuck, some of them consider it, but you still have to qualify, right? If you don't own an R.V. you still need to qualify to do that. Which can be a challenge, but there's also a huge stigma around it, especially if you have kids," she said. "It's not a forever thing. It's a 'for now' thing. We'll wait until the market cools down and then maybe by then we can buy again."
When asked if she has observed that there may be others like her, even in the current R.V. park she is residing in, S., agreed that there are many more long-term R.V.ers.
"You like you look around and can tell people have been here a long time. Some of them have flowers up and [things are] decorated. There's maybe a third or fourth of the park that is long-term," S. said. "There was only one spot when I called that they had available and I called a month or two ahead of time and I called Chestermere, Okotoks, all over."
According to various statistics, the average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Airdrie is approximately $1,531 (as of June 2022), though this most likely does not include utilities, while the average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Calgary is approximately $1,725. However, many Airdronians who are looking for rental properties, especially those who have children and pets have been quoted much higher monthly rates.
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