December 5th, 2017
Rising from the Ashes
California Fire Victims find hope in a new vision for sustainable housing.

It is no secret that there is a shortage of affordable housing options in California. As rent prices reach astronomical highs and complex zoning regulations restrict residential development, the need for a more sustainable housing alternative is critical.

The recent fires in Sonoma County demonstrated the exacerbating effect of natural disasters on housing shortages in deeply impacted urban and suburban areas. With thousands of victims still searching for housing in Northern CA and the Thomas Fire rapidly destroying homes in Ventura County down south, Californians are in need of hope now more than ever.

Nicole and Lisa are two CA residents whose lives have been affected by recent fires. While both were fortunate not to have lost their homes, their respective stories are a beacon of light for the new homeless.

Nicole and her husband dreamed of living a simpler lifestyle that would foster a connection to nature for their three kids. The challenge of finding an environmentally friendly living space that would support their need for comfort and adaptability was not met until they discovered Living Vehicle -- an innovative, self-contained mobile space that is designed to support full-time living on a continuous basis. When the house of a close friend in their community burned down, the family decided it was time to offer up their leased residence and make the transition towards a new lifestyle with a Living Vehicle. Despite the devastation that many of their friends and families have suffered, they are hopeful that their new lifestyle may inspire others who now have the opportunity to rebuild a right-sized life.

In Lisa’s case, the fire inspired an entrepreneurial idea to meet the needs of an existing crisis within her community. Before the tragic fires, she had plans to lease out Living Vehicles as luxury housing options for people undergoing major home remodels. Now, her plan is to provide a living space for victims of the fire that doesn’t require sacrificing comforts, but rather enhances their quality of life while rebuilding their community. She explains that many people have already sacrificed everything, and they do not want to disrupt their normal routines by being forced to relocate. They are in need of a sustainable housing option that will support their immediate lifestyle needs on a more permanent basis while offering the scalability for a multitude of future uses.

For both women, the fires have served as a stimulus for change. They are passionate about sharing their optimistic outlook and want to help others discover this innovative housing solution. In many ways, their stories mirror that of Matthew Hofmann, the founder and Architect of Living Vehicle.

When Matthew made the transition to small space living in 2009, he was intentionally seeking a simpler, less costly and more sustainable lifestyle. He was tired of spending all of his time working to pay for a large house and material possessions that he never had the time to enjoy. After the Tea Fire in 2008 left hundreds of vacant lots in Santa Barbara, CA, Matthew decided to rent a space where he could park and live in his first Airstream renovation. This was Matthew’s first of many experiences designing and living in mobile spaces that culminated in his creation of Living Vehicle almost a decade later.

As local governments respond to housing needs in communities that have been impacted by natural disasters, creative zoning regulations like the one that permitted Matthew to rent a vacant lot for temporary mobile use will become increasingly important. It is not uncommon that times of crisis can serve as a catalyst for change. As a result of the recent fires in Northern California, the need for a more sustainable model of housing is more apparent now than ever. Ultimately, state and local governments are responsible for embracing mobile living as a viable solution to the housing shortage and enacting more practical zoning regulations that reflect this market need.

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