My House Has Wheels started out as simple account of my wife and I living full-time in our RV. It very quickly grew to encompass alternative housing because so many people turn to mobile living to escape the oppression and inflexibility of traditional housing.
From my perspective every aspect of mobile living is booming. The RV industry is setting records, sales of the book are strong, and online forums for groups like vandwellers are seeing huge spikes in growth. But all the focus on mobility can be myopic and leave you with a skewed view of reality. The unfortunate truth is that mobility among your fellow Americans is an all-time low. In fact, fewer people are moving than any time since 1948, when the data was first tracked by the Census Bureau.
Millennials Staying Home
Young people age 25-35 are moving at lower rates than any previous generation. Only 20% of young people reported living at a different address last year. Bizarrely, that reality comes at a time when young people have a greater number of traditional mobility factors. Fewer are marrying at all and are doing so later in life when they do. Fewer young people have kids and fewer own houses. You’d think they would be Generation Mobile but they are the least mobile of any generation since WWII.
I believe the reason millennials are less mobile is debt. Many are saddled with tens of thousands in student loan debt. That makes packing up and moving very difficult, particularly if they’re living at home.
Traditional Housing Is Very Limiting
Having a house nailed to the ground is very limiting and yet that’s the option we get. It would be trivial to design more portable, modular homes that are easy to move. I don’t mean like mobile homes which, despite their name, are not terribly mobile. I mean like container-size modular pieces that can be lifted and transported on standard container transports.
Today, if you get a job in another state, you have to go through all the trouble of selling one house and buying another. That’s an expensive and time-consuming process and a minefield of fees and expenses. If homes were truly modular and foundations were standard, then moving would be a breeze. But that cuts out builders, real estate agents and a whole housing ecology built around extracting money from you. All of that ecosystem is supported by government backing of home loans and, to a certain extent, consumer preferences.
America Is Less Mobile
It’s not just millennials, Americans in general are more stationary and that is not a good thing. Whether it’s student loan debt, housing valuations or the expense of relocating to a new area, Americans need to start moving again. In this country we have a history and tradition of mobility. Mobility opened up the west to expansion. Mobility drove the growth of California in 1930s. Millions of Americans enjoy the freedom of mobility RV, camper and van living offers and they’re doing it for fun.
Not All Bad News
There’s a bright side that’s relevant to the camping and RV lifestyle. Those who can use van, camper and RV living to enhance their mobility enjoy a competitive advantage in the job market. They can migrate to where the well-paying jobs are. They can try on a new city before deciding to settle there. They can live there, or just outside of town in local campgrounds, until they understand the city and the best places to live.
In war and life, mobility has always been a competitive advantage.