Thursday, May 12 2022

BOISE, Idaho — As rental prices in Treasure Valley continue to soar, many are overpriced, including a Boise woman who resorted to buying an RV and renting space in a friend’s yard to park it.

She says the situation is difficult. But it is also illegal.

Under the current City of Boise zoning code, RVs cannot be parked in a yard, only in an RV park or campground.

The City of Boise is currently rewriting its zoning code, but they say the rules on recreational vehicles won’t change because the federal government doesn’t consider them permanent housing.

The Idaho native wants to share her story, but while she’s candid about housing issues, she’s also concerned that coming out of the shadows could make her situation worse. That’s why we won’t identify him in this story.

“You’d be surprised that it’s a lot more expensive to heat and cool this thing than any apartment I’ve lived in,” she said.

A longtime tenant, she never thought this was where she would end up.

“I never thought that at 43 I would be living in an RV while working full time, still paying rent on time, a financially responsible person,” she said. “But I make it work.”

Although his motorhome is quite nice, space is not a selling point.

“The oven doesn’t allow for normal, regular size pans,” she said.

The bathroom is cramped and the bed is bulky.

“I’ve reduced a lot but kept things that are really important to me, for example, I have my grandfather’s victrola suitcase from the 1920s,” she said.

But she gets away with it because this place she likes to call home is a real gem.

“Until the last four years, honestly,” she said.

The troubles started in 2018.

“And it wasn’t a choice, at any of those times, I would have stayed put at any of those places that I was,” she said.

First, the black mold drove her out of her home. Then, the landlady wanted to move back into the apartment she was renting. Soon another owner moved in to flip the house and sell it.

“At that point, it was April 2021 and anything I could find that was a little affordable was still 40% of my income,” she said. “It ended up being a one-bedroom apartment with no washer, dryer, and sewer that often backed up in the bathroom and a landlord who didn’t take care of it.”

So she looked for alternative options like tiny houses or a motorhome. But then the problem became where to park the RV she bought.

“I couldn’t find an RV park in town that didn’t have a 2-3 year waiting list,” she said.

This Boiséan is not the only one to choose between living in an RV, leaving the state or facing homelessness.

“For a number of households – a growing number of households, having access to a motorhome is sometimes the only thing standing between them and living on the streets or in a homeless shelter,” said Deanna Watson, executive director of the City of Boise/Ada County Housing Authority.

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

“I’m here because of an incredible network of humans in Boise, but I don’t know how long this will last,” the owner of Boise RV said.

This option is not necessarily secure.

After living in the RV for eight months, this Idahoan native could leave the state.

“I was born in Twin Falls and I love Boise, I just don’t see it making sense to stay here at this point,” she said.

Many, like this Boise woman, need housing now, but solutions aren’t coming fast enough to stop lifelong residents from leaving.


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