By COL (R) Michael A. Lockwood
We homeschooled our children throughout their entire school life. During that time, I used to occasionally lament that I should get some sort of break on my taxes. I mean, our children weren't a burden on the system, and we were spending additional income on their education, right? Sounds fair to me, I thought. I knew, however, that this was a potential double-edged sword. The more I wanted from the government, the more risk I took that the government would interfere with the way I chose to educate my children. The reason we decided to homeschool is that we wanted to instill specific values and education without government interference. With the current pandemic and "shelter in place" phenomena, I see a similar dilemma in the full-time RV community.
Let's face it; there are an estimated one million people in the US who are living full time in their RV (this doesn't include the number of people who are living in their vehicles or vans). Many RV campgrounds are allowing folks to take up full-time residence and lease their camp spots for months and, in some cases, even years (I actually lived full-time in the DC area for two years). With the current pandemic and businesses closing down, lots of these full-timers have been kicked out and told to find somewhere else to park. As expected, these actions have caused some angst in the full-time community and have spurred some to call for action from the government to designate RV parks and campgrounds as essential services. In my mind, this call to action could have long term potential to harm the RV community.
Recreational vehicles are not built for full-time living, hence the name "recreational." Their building standards and codes are meant for temporary seasonal use. RVs are made of a conglomeration of fiberglass, foam board, cheap flex hosing, plywood, and other lightweight materials. They do not meet the codes for state or local housing requirements, let alone the HUD housing requirements. Take a look just at the tiny house movement lately, and you will see that many communities are not all that hospitable to the concept. Will they be more hospitable to the full-time RV community?
So this brings us to my initial thoughts. The truth is many full-timers have taken advantage of the recreational community standards to escape the traditional societal requirements that come with living in fixed dwellings. They can keep costs down and live a simpler life while roaming the country freely. They can avoid taxes by setting up faux residencies in states that don't charge income tax, and at the extreme, they can disappear from society altogether. However, in the current pandemic, there are many cries of "foul" from the RV community. RVers and campground owners are imploring government officials to take action as RVers are forced to move on due to park closures. These cries for help may draw an unwanted spotlight on the full-time community. Articles like CNN's "People living in vans and RVs are getting squeezed during pandemic" could bring national attention to the full-time life and plight. Well-meaning politicians and community leaders, once they get an idea of the scope of the full-time community, may begin to try and help. But that help will come at a cost inviting more stringent regulation and control. As an example, if you want an idea of the effect well-meaning community leaders can have on the RV community, you should read Andy Zipser's article, "Governor's misguided order deals crushing blow to at least one RV park”.
Most full-time RVers want to get away from Government imposition in their lives. They love the freedom of the road and lack of societal noise. It is essential to consider the reasoning for asking for such help. By doing so, you invite new standards, legislation, and rules which could disrupt the way of life you have lived for so long. Soooo…be careful what you ask for, you just may get it.
About the Author: Mike Lockwood is a retired Army Colonel and President and CEO of UpClose-RV.He holds Masters Degrees in Strategic Studies and Transportation Management. He currently resides in Carlisle, PA on the banks of the beautiful Conodoguinet Creek.