The number of people who live in their vehicles because they can’t find affordable housing is on the rise, even though the practice is illegal in many U.S. cities.
The number of people residing in campers and other vehicles surged 46 percent over the past year, a recent homeless census in Seattle’s King County, Washington found. The problem is “exploding” in cities with expensive housing markets, including Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, according to Governing magazine.
The problem of vehicle residency is national in scope, although its impact may be more “acutely felt in urban areas where space is more limited,” said Sara Rankin, an assistant professor law at Seattle University and the director of Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.
Challenges abound for people who live in their vehicles, ranging from racking up parking tickets to finding a safe place to park and shower, advocates say.
A recent survey by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), which tracks policies in 187 cities, found the number of prohibitions against vehicle residency has more than doubled during the last decade.
“Much like outdoor camping and sleeping bans, city-wide restrictions on living in vehicles may leave no lawful place where homeless people may live in a community,” NLCHP said in a recent report. “Bans that permit vehicle impoundment, or that result in impoundment flowing from unpaid tickets or other enforcement of such bans, can cause homeless people to lose their shelter, transportation, and personal belongings in one fell swoop – with no realistic option to retrieve or replace them.”