Necessity is the mother of invention’ occurs ‘when the need for something becomes imperative, one is forced to find a way of getting or achieving it.’ Hence, the widely-recognized affordable housing crisis and search for resolution evident throughout the U.S. today! Why? Rising mortgage interest rates, too little inventory of conventional site-built homes, and reluctance of homeowners to sell and take on new higher rate mortgages, have highlighted a segment of the recreational vehicle industry (i.e. ‘RVs’) as a probable, albeit attractive source of affordable housing almost everywhere. 

Furthermore, “In the past, there was no such thing as ‘tiny houses’ or widespread use of recreational vehicles, park models, and other types of structures as permanent dwellings.”*1 

Now that has changed. 

Today’s supporting headlines: “RVs becoming Housing of Last Resort”…“Low-income People Turning to RVs”…“How the RV Industry is Becoming More Diverse”…“Can you have it all being a digital nomad?” and ‘Home Buying Hits Near 30 Year Low as Costs, Credit Card Debts Soar’, EPOCH TIMES, p. A5 of 20-28 September 2023 edition. 

All point to recreational vehicles (‘RVs’) increasingly viewed and used as affordable housing! 

Specifically, “…recreational vehicles and park models built in accordance with private ‘codes’ (e.g. ANSI standard) maintained by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association”*2 RVIA is the leading trade voice for the $140 billion RV industry, representing 495 manufacturers providing 98 percent of all RVs made in the U.S.. The trade group also claims the median age of 11.2 million RV owners in 2021 was 53 years, but median age for first-time RV buyers is 32 years. 

‘Fulltime RVers’ are oft considered to be a new breed of homeowner. Their number is pegged at 1,000,000*3. The lifestyle is defined as RVers living in recreational vehicles 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – but with no permanent address. These fulltime RVers, a.k.a. digital nomads, ‘workampers’, and boondockers, remain mobile and semi-mobile, traveling from one locale to the next for employment, to enjoy attractions, for camaraderie among RVers. Sometimes for unlimited stays in 4,844+ Harvest Hosts hospitality locations (e.g. farms, breweries, wineries) throughout North America for $99 annual membership, and where there are no camping fees or tents. 

However, other fulltime RVers opt for stationery lifestyles, parked amidst other RVs in RV communities, RV parks, and campgrounds; even among manufactured homes in land lease communities (formerly ‘mobile home parks’), where allowed; on scattered building sites conveyed fee simple, and simply where they decide to settle. These folk have found RVs, new and used, to be housing they can truly afford! This new breed of full-time RV owners has found this to be housing they can afford! 

For example, An RV owner writing on the internet claims, “…you can do the full-time RV lifestyle for $2,000 to 3,000 a month. We fall into the $7,000 to 8,000 range, but if we really try, we could probably do about $4,000 to 5,000 a month” – not including cost of the RV. 

Reason for this emerging category of residency? Beyond the wanderlust of heretofore casual RVers, the widespread and increasing national need (Many say crisis) for affordable housing has popularized, some say forced, this lifestyle alternative. To better understand what is happening, let’s first identify the more than half dozen categories of recreational vehicles (‘RVs’); then agree on a working definition of affordable housing. 

Nine types of recreational vehicles. At least 10.5 million households own at least one RV. 

Towable RVs, a.k.a. ‘trailers’, according to RVIA statistics, comprise 90 percent of the national RV market

• 5th wheels (largest of towable RVs), pulled by a fullsize truck (usually one ton in size), with raised front overhang (a.k.a. ‘gooseneck’), 20-40 ft. in length and accommodating four to eight people. 

• Travel trailers, a.k.a. ‘pull-behinds’, include ‘teardrop’ design, e.g. Airstream RVs towed by trucks, SUVs, even motorcycle, 8-40 ft. in length and accommodating two to eight people. 

• Toy haulers, a.k.a. sport utility RVs, a subcategory of 5th wheels and travel trailers - some with garages for the ‘toys’ (e.g. boats, motorcycles, race cars, etc.), 18-40 ft. in length and accommodating four to eight people. 

• Pop-up trailers or folding camping trailers with a base and canvas top, 8-20 ft. in length and accommodating two to eight people. 

• Truck campers fit into truck beds, a.k.a. cab-overs, 6-12 ft. in length and accommodating two to four people. Motorized RVs, a.k.a. ‘motor homes’, according to RVIA statistics, comprise 10 percent of the national RV market. 

• Class A (a.k.a. diesel pushers or pullers – like a bus, using gas or diesel engines. Largest and most expensive of RVs, 25-45 ft. in length, accommodating six to eight people. A subset to Class A is the Overland RV: trucks based on 2 ½ ton Light Military Tactical Vehicle (‘LMTV’) 4X4 cargo trucks. Very durable for ‘overlanding’ adventures 

• Class B, a.k.a. camper vans or van camper. Also Class B+, as a crossover between B&C, 20-26 ft. in length and accommodating one to four people. 

• Class C – like Class A but with a ‘cab over’ profile used as a bed or extra storage, a.k.a. mini-motorhome, low profile motorhome, and compact motorhome. 22-35 ft. in length and accommodating four to eight people. 

Park model RV homes a.k.a. ‘park trailer’ (400 sq. ft. or smaller in size), also a.k.a. ‘PMRV’ 

• According to MHVillage, “a regulated temporary living space for an RV park setting.”*4 Five types of RV destinations, according to industry consultant Ed. O. Bridgman ( 

RV Parks – “been around for over 100 years, no amenities, serve short-term guests.” 

RV Campgrounds –“been around for over 100 years, near amenities, serve short-term guests.”

 • RV Resorts – “been around for 20 years, provide lots of amenities, serve short-term guests.” 

RV Communities – “been around for 10 years, fewer amenities, serve long-term guests” Most likely where recreational vehicles will be used as permanent dwellings. • Hybrids – “designed as short-term destinations (but) being used for long-term guests.”

A working definition of affordable housing, and how it ‘works’. Think 30 percent! “Housing is affordable when an individual or household’s Annual Gross Income (‘AGE’), or local housing market’s Area Median Income (‘AMI’) – identified by postal zip code and available online at, can lease a conventional apartment and or buy a home (or RV) in this local housing market, using no more than 30 percent of said AGI or AMI, for shelter and its’ related household (utility) expenses. For example: $50,000 AGI/AMI X .3 Housing Expense Factor (‘HEF’) = $15,000, or $1,250/month available for rent or mortgage & PITI (principal, interest, taxes, insurance) & household expenses.”*5 So, does 30% HEF of your AGI or AMI provide access to affordable housing (e.g. RVs)? 

The ‘big picture’ where affordable housing in the U.S. is concerned. Quoting from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies recently released (21 June 2023) report: ‘The State of the Nation’s Housing’ 2020-2023, “Between 2019 and 2021, the country saw a significant drop in housing affordability” and in 2023, “Home prices and rents remain high, as steep interest rates lock homeowners in place and slow construction.” Just how bad? According to the National Low Income Housing Council, quoted in Affordable Housing Finance magazine (August 2023), “Nationally, the 2023 housing wage is $28.58 per hour for a modest two-bedroom rental home, and $23.67 for a modest one-bedroom rental home.” Just half these amounts easily support the RV lifestyle as a permanent dwelling alternative.  

Definition of ‘residential housing’ is broadening. During June 2023 the International Code Council (‘ICC’) sponsored an ‘off-site construction summit’ in Washington, DC. Here, HUD-Code manufactured housing, ‘tiny houses’, RVs, modular pods, customized shipping containers, and panelized systems were all classified as being residential housing types.*6 Even the American Association for Retired Persons (‘AARP’) is weighing in on new forms of affordable housing; in their case, using existing structures, like conversion of outdated motels into senior living areas, closed shopping malls converted into senior housing, and unused school building made into housing. Yet another recent addition to this eclectic affordable residential housing mix are “…sheds being converted into cabins and cottages all over the country.”*7 The most recent manifestation of ‘affordable housing on wheels’ was introduced in the 17 August 2023 issue of USA TODAY newspaper, in a feature article titled: ‘Retired on the Road’. Here they described a 73 foot semitrailer converted into a couple’s dream home – named the Nomad Monster. 

But there’s a problem, a challenge. RVs in general, are not designed or built to be used as permanent housing (i.e. Think lack of insulation, self-contained sewage disposal, ongoing water supply, power, heating fuel and other practical living efficiencies, including unit size). Here, paraphrasing a recent communique out of Washington State: “In an effort to increase affordable housing, some policymakers across the country have begun to look to tiny homes and RVs as a solution. Hence attempts to co-opt RV and PMRV standards and definitions to be used as housing standards. For example, NFPA 119.2 and ANSI A119.5 state these standards are for temporary-use vehicles, but regulatory and legislative efforts are afoot to use RV and PMRV standards to define permanent structures.*8 

Examples of recreational vehicles (‘RVs’) being used as permanent housing. 

• From a land lease community (a.k.a. manufactured home community or ‘mobile home park’) owner/operator with properties in the Midwest and Texas. “Down in the Rio Grande Valley there are several RV parks that cater to ‘permanent RV’ clientele. These individuals and families live in an RV park year round. Pretty cheap form of housing.” 

• Another land lease community owner, this time in central Illinois. “Every year I have homeowners/site lessees who live manufactured homes on my rental homesites that leave in the fall to winter in their recreational vehicle (home) somewhere in the south. And I have residents who’re ‘workampers’, living here on-site as construction workers until transferred elsewhere.” 

• Newby Management, in Ellenton, FL., says, “In our age 55+ RV communities we have an average of 15 percent of the community live there year round. Most of the 15 percent live in park models. Park models are certainly an option for affordable housing. RVs are also an option, but more difficult to live in in hot and cold climates.” 

• An RV community developer opines that 15 percent or greater, of his RV owners/site lessees, use their recreational vehicles as permanent dwellings 

Real estate and real estate investment aspect of recreational vehicle living; mobile, permanent, and otherwise. While there are many property portfolio firms catering to the RV industry, we’ll briefly profile one here. Roberts Communities & Resorts characteristically develops and operates three types of resorts, two with semi-permanent and permanent feel to them, one as a destination resort. 

Their ‘55+ Snowbird Resorts’ fill the need for 55+ (age) active adults desiring a warm place to call home during fall and winter months. Business model? Guests visit in their RV for a while, then sell it and purchase a Park Model at the resort, signing an annual lease. Result? 80 percent of said Park Models are homes away from home. ‘Long Term Workforce RV Resorts’. These are all-age RV resorts near major metropolitan areas, where 70-80 percent of guests stay for more than six months. Typical guests include traveling nurses, construction workers, folk looking for a home they can afford in the area. And some simply desire to remain transient – on their own terms.

‘Destination RV Resorts’. Again, all-age RV resorts, but close to tourist destinations like national forests or national parks. Most guests stay for a week or less. These resorts are fairly seasonal and affected by higher gas prices and local economy. *9

 ‘Village Camp Outdoor Adventure Resorts’, is a new brand of RV resort. Concept is to function somewhat like a KOA RV park, encouraging guests to explore the outdoors rather than sitting in camp around a campfire or in one’s RV. There’re Park Models available for purchase, and if desired, placed in the property’s ‘rental pool’ from time to time, managed by the resort as short term rentals. 

Roberts Communities & Resorts properties, as described above, are located in AL, AZ, CA, CO, TX, & UT. 

Additional variations of these RV resort types. In central Florida there are Park Model properties where RV owners live year round or semi-annually on rental homesites, as land lease communities. These Park Models are oft ‘built out’ with a carport on one side of the ‘home’ and a Florida room (i.e. screened-in awning and small storage shed) on the other side. 

Where to buy new and used RVs to be used as temporary and permanent housing? 

Anywhere recreational vehicles are sold! Here’s what just one retail sales operation offers in Louisiana: “No matter the size of your family, Bent’s RV offers affordable housing. Whether you’re looking for a fifth wheel or travel trailer, to house your family, we have quality inventory and manufacturers that will make your temporary housing feel a bit more like home. We have a great selection of affordable housing under $25,000 – great quality RVs, but at a lower price! Our $25K and under RVs for sale include top manufacturers. Need bigger space? The Keystone Springdale offers bunkhouse floorplans that sleep up to six people comfortably.” 

What does the future hold relative to RVs as affordable housing? This is difficult to predict, but here again are the contributing factors as to why more and more RVs will likely be used as affordable permanent dwellings by American citizens in the near future: 

• Increased real estate mortgage rates, of late, have hampered home-buying and bank financing of site-built homes by individuals, newlyweds, and families. • While personal property (i.e. home-only) loans (mortgages) for RVs have even higher interest rates, the purchase price of new and resale recreational vehicles is generally far less than that for a site-built house, even condominium. 

• Low housing inventory in many, if not most, local housing markets has made it difficult to find a home to buy and afford. Why? Low inventory is the result of too little new construction, and unwillingness of homeowners to sell their present residence and buy into another one – likely at a higher interest rate. 

• Federal government push to relax local land planning and housing zoning restrictions, to make homeownership more affordable. 

So, until mortgage interest rates decline, RV prices increase substantially (e.g. ‘What effect will the current RV production slide from 500,000 units in 2022 to maybe 300,000 in 2023 have?’), local housing inventories increase nationwide, and federal pressure ameliorates local regulatory barriers to affordable housing, more and more RVs will used as affordable permanent dwellings by this new breed of American homeowners. 

Recreational vehicle print periodicals. 

RV News, ‘The Voice of the RV industry’, a trade publication. Contact: 

RV Magazine. Published by Good Sam Enterprises for $19.97/ 

RV Lifestyle Magazine. $35.00/year 

Trailer Life Magazine. $17.00/year (less if a Good Same Club member) 

Motorhome Magazine. $35.00/year 

In conclusion. Everyone knows there’s been, and continues to be, a nationwide affordable housing crisis throughout the U.S. Today it’s simply too difficult, if not impossible, to find and afford most types of conventional site-built housing,, due to personal circumstances (Think pandemic, student loans, inflation, peer pressure and more), and the daunting challenges cited in the general housing market. No wonder RV aficionados are opting to become full-timers, on the road and otherwise; and to increasingly view their RVs as permanent dwellings on sites conveyed fee simple, in RV communities, and within land lease communities. Indeed, this is the New Era for RV consumers.

End Notes. 1. 1Quoted from a Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (‘MHARR’) WHITE PAPER dated September 2023 relative to two pending legislative proposals. 2. Ibid. - 12 - RVs as Affordable Housing Cont. 3. 1,000,000 = The Washington Post quoting the RV Industry Association (‘RVIA’). 4. According to RV park developers there are five types of RV destinations: park, campground, resort, community and hybrid. And MHVillage? “…the nation’s premier online marketplace for buying and selling manufactured homes….” Likely including Park Models and RVs sited in said communities on rental homesites and used as permanent dwellings. 5. Not all lenders include household expenses in this calculation 6. While Accessory Dwelling Units (‘ADUs’) were not singled-out at this summit, ADU applies to ‘tiny houses’, park model RVs, 300 Sq. Ft. ‘capsulehouses’ (@$35,000) and other similar structures. Some predict ‘sheds’ with finished interiors and utilities will be the next type ADU considered as affordable housing. Said units are already being marketed by big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. 7. Marty Boltres of Shed Builder magazine continues: “…sheds/cabins are built with the same 2X4 & 16” on center construction as any single family home.” 8. PMRV = Park Model Recreational Vehicle. NFPA 119.2 = Standard for recreational vehicles, relating to fire and life safety. ANSI A119.5 = Standard used as a building code for PMRVs. 9. Contrast this type RV property with transient parks, usually along interstate highways, where travelers park overnight while traveling from one locale to the next. MHI is an Arlington, VA. – based national advocate for all segments of the manufactured housing industry, including the land lease community real estate asset class. (703)558-0400 Compiled and edited by George Allen, CPMEmeritus, MHM Master, EducateMHC. Mr. Allen is the publisher of the Allen Report, one of the most read and longest running manufactured housing industry newsletters. In addition, Mr. Allen hosts the annual International Networking Roundtable, one of the industry’s best organized MH Industry education events