From 2020 to 2023, the median purchase price of homes in the US rose from $320,000 to over $420,000 – That’s a 33% increase in only 3 years. In 2011, the average price of a home was around $200,000, meaning prices have doubled in a single decade. The average apartment rental price in the US is now $1300 per month, compared to $1000 in 2020, and home rentals have risen to over $2000 per month on average. The spike in the market is a reflection of inflation across the board, as well as increased demand due to more Americans being priced out of home ownership.
Another interesting development during the pandemic years was a considerable rush to buy RVs, vans and tiny homes. This may have been a symptom of the authoritarian lockdowns that became a standard in blue states, leading people to relocate. However, there is also the economic factor. The average tiny home runs $30,000 to $60,000, with used RVs available for even less. RV space rentals can be found for as low as $500 per month. For those willing to sacrifice living space, the savings are alluring.
Inflationary crisis is pushing low income and fixed income Americans into tighter living conditions, and people are trying to adapt as best they can. The underlying difference between economic disasters of the past like the Great Depression and the stagflation crisis of today is not the severity of the decline but the visibility of the decline.
In the Great Depression, the proliferation of “Hooverville” shanty towns and charity soup lines became an iconic symbol of the scale of financial calamity. These kids of signals of collapse are not as prevalent or obvious in our era. Soup lines have been replaced by EBT benefits and food banks, while Hoovervilles are being replaced by “Squatter Towns” made up of RV villages on the outskirts of highways and Walmart parking lots.
Another factor which has perhaps improved the conditions of falling home affordability is the remote work option and the “gig economy.” A person living out of an RV or van has the ability to connect to the internet and raise funds through digital work, they can become contract workers for delivery services, or they can work a regular 9-5 job while saving money on rent and utilities. This is not to say that the trend is ideal or that this should be the new western standard; it still represents the decline of western civilization. But, the ugliness of economic uncertainty is far more hidden from view.
During the Great Depression, many people became nomadic, traveling across the country by rail or by caravan looking for better living conditions and better employment. But the life of these nomads focused on less than ideal camp conditions, poor sanitation and poor security. They were often the targets of criminals. We have a version of this today in the form of “tent cities” in places like Los Angeles, but for now the RV option appears to be the dominant one.
Even in places as cold as Canada with limited populations, RV communities are popping up everywhere. The following video gives some insight into the lives of people who are involved in such communities, either by choice or by necessity.
One issue that stands out as paramount is the return of a kind of tribal organization. Neighbors knowing each other and helping each other through difficult times. The isolation of the modern world has created a kind of anti-community; a world in which no one knows anyone and mutual aid is seen as unsavory. Economic crisis has a tendency to force societies back to their origins and tribalism might be making a comeback as a fundamental of survival.