van parked outside the house

Alternative Housing

Why alternative housing? To save money, to travel, to live creatively – there are many reasons why people choose to live in tents, RVs, cabins, underground homes, rental rooms and anything else that’s less common than the houses, condos, and apartments that most people call home. Below are some of these housing options, and their advantages.


Alternative Housing That Moves


Camping at a hot springs area, we sat around the campfire one night with several young men living in the desert in their old converted school bus. It cost them nothing to park it in the desert (on BLM land you have to move every two weeks, though), bathed for free in hot spring tubs that were as nice as those in nearby expensive resorts, and played guitar around the fire each night. Not such a bad life.


In Arizona, there are whole communities that spring up each winter, full of people living in their RVs. The advantages of RV housing are obvious and include moving with the seasons, trying out different places, and not paying property taxes. I’ve talked to people living in RVs that cost $200,000 and ones that cost $600, so the selection of accommodations is varied, to say the least.


My wife and I lived for almost a month in our conversion van as we traveled from Arizona to Florida and then to Michigan. The advantages of a van include better mileage than an RV, and being inconspicuous. We found that could park and sleep almost anywhere.


Other Alternative Housing


In most areas where rents are high, renting rooms have become common. This makes sense for single people. Just pay a set amount each month or week, and (if it includes utilities) you have a predictable and lower cost of living. I rented out rooms in my own home for years, and even put carpet and lighting in a shed so I could get $50 per week for it in summer.


A friend of mine lived in a shack he built for $3,000 on a small piece of land he bought for $7,000. Eventually, he ran into problems with the county because he had no occupancy permit. Apparently you can’t live on your own land in the woods if your home is too small. However, you can camp on it, so a $2,000 used RV parked on your land makes for a cheap and legal housing alternative.


Some people live on houseboats and avoid paying property taxes. Some live in the jungle near the beaches in Hawaii, so they can afford to be in paradise. I know people who lived in a basement while slowly building the house above for cash. People live in cabins built in the national forest wilderness, moving every few years as they are discovered. Truly, your imagination is the only limit to your alternative housing options.


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