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Workers in Washington, D.C., are avoiding inflated housing costs by setting up residence in area RV parks, according to a report by the Washington Post.
After striking out in the housing market three years ago, Remi Bergeron drove his 36-foot RV from Winter Springs, Fla., to Hillwood Camping Park and made the rugged spot in suburban Prince William County, Va., his residence.
The 49-year-old computer systems support engineer chose the park for its proximity to work, the comforts of suburbia and, most important, its price: $513 a month.
He lives in his RV among other workers who also were drawn by the region’s booming job market but were unable or unwilling to pay for its pricey housing.
The Washington area holds the distinction of producing the steepest job growth of any metropolitan area in the nation in the past five years. Job seekers are flocking in to take advantage of that work, much of it on contract and temporary.
And workers need a home. Short-term rentals – whether apartments or residential hotel rooms – are expensive, as are houses. For many, an RV is the answer.
Although no organization tracks the number of people living in RVs, the four Washington-area campgrounds that allow long-term RV camping report a marked increase in demand.
“There are some families, but mostly it’s just singles and working guys,” said Pat Gardner, who manages Hillwood Camping Park.
Long-term RV dwellers started filling up the park’s 150 campsites about five years ago. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Gardner said she’s noticed “more IT, more government-related, more security-related” workers among her RV dwellers. “I’ve had FBI, U.S. marshals, bomb-sniffing dogs … instead of just your regular blue collar.”
At Aquia Pines Camp Resort in Stafford, Va., demand is so high that owner Everett Lovell said he’s considering ripping out tent sites and adding to the 20 spaces for long-term RV dwellers.
Cherry Hill Park in suburban Prince George’s County, Md., has taken a surge of calls since 2002, when the fear of terrorism began to subside and workers felt comfortable taking jobs here again, said Janice Stabinsky, the park’s office manager.
When callers hear the monthly rate, about $1,400 per RV, many believe they can find a place to live for less, Stabinsky said. “Then they try, and they can’t,” she said. “And they call back and ask for a space.”
The RV phenomenon first appeared in Silicon Valley during the mid-to-late 1990s, when some dot-com workers turned to RVs for relief from long commutes and steep mortgages and rents.
“The economy was so hot in that area at that time, some companies were letting (workers) park RVs in their parking lots,” said R.B. Brinton, marketing director for Escapees RV Club, a Livingston, Texas-based organization catering to RV users. “Most all of the parks in the area were full with waiting lists.”