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Ever inventive, New Yorkers move into RVs to avoid high city rents

Wes Parnell, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

NEW YORK – Inside a bright purple RV tucked under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, Giovanni sat in the orange glow of a heater screwed onto a propane tank. A sticker on the front door read, "Drama Free Zone." Emails chimed on his work laptop in the background.

“I would not have been doing it this way unless I had to,” said Giovanni, 32, who lives in a recreational vehicle. “If I kept going the way things were going, I was probably going to be in a real jam, where I wasn’t going to be able to pay rent, probably evicted and couch surfing.”

Giovanni is one of dozens of New Yorkers who have traded a brick-and-mortar pad for a home on wheels because they can’t afford city rents.

As a first responder — an emergency medical technician with a private hospital — Giovanni said he couldn’t make ends meet.

“I was an EMT… you want to talk struggling‚ that was really rough,” he explained. “I had to have somebody rent out my living room just to be able to cover the rent. That’s how hard it was. After doing that for three, four years, I was like, I’m done with this. I quit. I’m over it.”

In December 2019, Giovanni bought a Fleetwood Southwind RV for $4,000 and decided to call it home.

 

By the light of a small, solar powered lamp, Giovanni, who asked that his last name be withheld, now sells insurance using his cell phone as a hotspot. He said his $40,000 a year salary is still not enough cash to rent an apartment in most neighborhoods, so he delivers food on the side.

“I went to college, I did pretty much everything that I was told I was supposed to do in order to have a good life. And it didn’t turn out that way,” he explained. “For a majority of us, we got slammed with student loans that are almost impossible to pay back. I’m probably one of two or three Millennials under that highway.”

The average monthly price for a rental property in Brooklyn rose from $1,840 in 2010 to $2,734 in March last year, according to a Street Easy report.

Brooklyn rentals were going for $2,463 a month in March, according to the real estate website.

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