Boise woman moves into RV after being priced out of rentals

Posted at 5:56 AM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 13:58:29-04

BOISE, Idaho — As rental prices in the Treasure Valley continue to skyrocket, many are being priced out of housing, including one Boise woman who resorted to buying an RV and renting space in a friend's backyard to park it.

She said the situation is hard — but it's also illegal.

Under the current City of Boise zoning code, RVs can't be parked in a yard, only an RV park or campground. The City of Boise is currently rewriting its zoning code, but they say the rules on RVs won't change because the federal government doesn't consider them a permanent dwelling.

The Idaho native wants to share her story, but while she is outspoken on housing issues she's also worried that stepping out of the shadows could make her situation even worse. Idaho News 6 will not be identifying her for her protection.

"You'd be surprised it's a lot more expensive to heat and cool this thing than any apartment I ever lived in," she said.

A long-time renter, she never thought this is where she'd end up.

"I just never thought at 43 I'd be living in an rv while working full time, always paid rent on time, financially responsible person," she said. "But I make it work."

Although her RV is pretty nice, space isn't a selling point.

"The oven doesn't allow for normal, regular oven size pans," she said.

The bathroom is cramped and the bed is bulky.

"I've pared down a lot however I've kept stuff that's really important to me, for instance, I have my grandfather's suitcase Victrola (record player) that's from the 20s," she said.

But she makes do because this place she loves to call home is a true gem — up until the last four years. The trouble began back in 2018.

"And it wasn't a choice, any of those times, I would've stayed put at any of those places I was at," she said.

First, black mold drove her from her home. Then, the landlord wanted to move back into the unit she had been renting. Soon another landlord moved in to flip the house and sell it.

"At that point, it was April of 2021 and anything that I could find that was somewhat affordable was still 40% of my income," she said. "That ended up being a one-bedroom apartment without a washer and dryer and sewer that often backed up into the bathroom and a landlord that wouldn't take care of it."

So she looked into alternative options like tiny homes or an RV. But then the issue became where to park the RV she purchased.

"I could not find an RV park in town that did not have a 2 to 3-year waitlist," she said.

This Boisean isn't the only one to find themselves choosing between living in an RV, leaving the state, or facing homelessness.

"For a number of, and increasing number of households, having access to an RV is sometimes the only thing between them and either living on the streets or in a homeless shelter," said Deanna Watson, the Executive Director of the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authorities.

The key to making this work is more than just a place to live.

"I'm here because of an amazing network of humans in Boise, but I don't know how long it'll last," the Boise RV owner said.

This option isn't necessarily secure. After living in the RV for eight months, this native Idahoan might leave the state.

"I was born in Twin Falls and I love Boise, I just don't see it being reasonable to stay here at this point," she said.

Many, like this Boise woman, are in need of housing now, but solutions aren't coming quick enough to keep lifelong residents from moving on.