Trailer park an alternative to rising rental costs

Caroline Clarke said she had no where to go because of rising rental costs on the Sunshine Coast. Clarke invested in a trailer and now lives in a campground.
A view of Howe Sound from the top of Soames Hill, a short but steep hike on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast, is seen near the town of Grantham's Landing, B.C., on May 23, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lauren Krugel)

Canada's West Coast is experiencing a housing crisis. With rental costs rising rapidly and almost no vacancies, residents need to come up with creative ideas for their housing issues.

Caroline Clarke lives in Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast. After a year of looking for a place to live, Clarke started thinking outside of the box. She bought a trailer and is now living on a campground with other people who, like her, are finding it difficult to keep up with rising costs of living.

Clarke told Cross Country Checkup's Duncan McCue about her alternative housing solution.

Caroline Clarke of Sechelt, BC cashed RRSP's to buy a trailer to live in a campground. 6:57

Duncan McCue: So what is the housing situation in the Sunshine Coast from your perspective?                                  

Caroline Clarke: Well, it's looking very much like a big extension of the Vancouver housing crisis. We have urgent conditions on the Sunshine Coast in terms of lack of affordable housing. Most, a good many at least, individuals on the coast need to have two, and sometimes three, part time jobs. I'm an older single woman and I've been on the coast for about 26 years and I love my community.

For the last five years I set out into self-employment and I rented a really lovely little coach house apartment for a $1000 a month which doesn't sound like a lot, but when I was a single woman on my own and in self-employment it actually was a lot. And I had to pedal fast and I actually was really going backwards every month.

So a year ago I began a search for alternate housing, and my goodness, I really soon began to realize that in fact I really had one of the sweetest deals. And in a way I was trapped in my own little apartment with no alternate unless I was willing to perhaps rent a room in a house.

DM: So what did you end up doing Caroline?

CC: I got creative. I just had to really think outside of the box. And it took months and months I was very fascinated with the tiny house movement. But I really was not in a position to buy land to put a tiny house on. I ended up buying a fifth wheel trailer. And I am living in a campground and some people have kind of raised their eyebrows around that choice I made for myself.

There is a whole community in my little campground of struggling, every day folk just like me, who are trying to work and trying to live affordably. The campground is full, as are the numerous other campgrounds on the Sunshine Coast. I feel like I actually have kind of won the lottery because at least I have a really, really nice trailer that I own outright. I cashed out my RRSPs and I'm living in a sweet trailer. Dozens and dozens of others are living in tents, and I am shocked Duncan, it's really shocking.

DM: You're talking about working people in Seychelle living in tents and a campground?

CC: Working people living in tents and trailers because there's no affordable housing and there are, much like the Vancouver issue, lots of beautiful big homes that are sitting empty. The same is true on the Sunshine Coast. It is kind of a resort area. There's a lot of investors who buy summer cottages. You know, 5000 square foot cottages that get used for two weeks of the year and they sit empty otherwise. It's sad.

DM: So one last question Caroline, are you going to stay in the trailer in the campground? Is that what you want to be doing?

CC: In my mind it is a short term. I've gone back to school for a year to bump up my counselling credentials and to be out there in the community and in employment by the end of November.

Duncan, there's two things that I've experienced but I want to point out one. It's that over the year that I looked for alternative renting space, what I witnessed are the property management companies that are overseeing the suites raise the rent incrementally as somebody moves out. That suite is suddenly $200 more and gets put on the market. There need to be some regulations on how much the property management companies can bump those rents up. The other thing is, I took money out of my RRSPs as a last, desperate need to solve my housing issue so that I was not going to become homeless. And now that money, according to Canada Revenue Agency, is income that is putting my school funding at peril. 

Caroline Clarke's comments have been edited and condensed. This online segment was prepared by Ieva Lucs.

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