Writer Wonders Whether RVs Could Solve Housing Crisis

(Illustration: Napa Valley Register)

During the Glass Fire where an estimated 67,484 acres and 1,555 homes and structures have so far been destroyed, many victims took to recreational vehicles for shelter, writes Chris Craiker for his Architex Angle report published by the Napa Valley Register.

RVs got scooped up, recycled and are sheltering countless families and individuals. Perhaps RVs can help us with our housing and homeless challenge.

Dockweiler State Beach, a popular RV camping destination in Los Angeles, has become a home to COVID-19 quarantined, high-risk families and the homeless, all in need.

While anticipated to be a temporary shelter, the state has been using RVs to solve serious social problems created by the homeless crisis and COVID-19.

Early into this pandemic, LA County was a major epicenter of COVID-19 victims. LA’s 13 homeless shelters were 95% full by April. They built an additional 13 shelters in response to the rapid pandemic spread and RVs were a major player.

RVs, trailers, campers and motor homes are a true American invention, a product of our love for the open road.

Their origins trace to an era between 1910 and 1930, when Americans’ were urged to “rough it” and escape the onslaught of modern conveniences in a motorized box.

I have fond memories of visiting mountain campgrounds in the family “tear drop” for weekends. I didn’t miss for a minute “Bonanza” on those mosquito infested evenings.

But in recent months, California has put RVs to work solving serious social problems: First as a temporary solution in the war against COVID-19 and now in addressing the homeless crisis.

Besides housing those under quarantine or who have mild symptoms, RVs are used for housing medical personnel and laboratory work freeing up valuable hospital space.

RVs were starting to play a role in housing Napa’s fire victims before the Coronavirus surfaced. These are small but local victories.

The Federated Women of the Upper Napa Valley, working with a group called RV to Paradise, combined with the generosity of the St. Helena’s Community to deliver three vehicles and two RVs to victims of the Paradise fires.

But we will need more. A lot more. Used RVs can be purchased for a low of $7,000. A new stripped-down basic RV can be built as low as $30,000, or about $100 per square foot, less than today’s budget for a shed.

Here’s the deal: The 1974 National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act enforces design, construction, performance, and installation of mobile homes, now called manufactured homes.

Since 1982 RVs have been exempt from both HUDs requirements and local building code application when built on a single chassis, less than 400 square feet, the size of a garage.

The take-away here is: Napa cities should consider building their own RVs for temporary housing for fire victims, COVID-19 quarantined and the homeless. Napans are resilient and if we can survive the Glass Fire, COVID-19 and an upside-down economy, we can tackle our housing crisis.

Click here to read the rest of the report.