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RV 'Landlords' Renting To Homeless, Low-Income Workers In Silicon Valley

PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) -- A new kind of landlord has popped up the Bay Area, where affordable housing can be notoriously out of reach. These landlords' rentals come with four wheels.

On any given night in Palo Alto, one of the most expensive cities to buy a home in the Bay Area, there are dozens and dozens of RV's parked on the streets. Some are occupied by homeless people, some by people who work in the area but live elsewhere and don't want to commute.

But now there's a third group: people who rent RV's from a new kind of landlord who is cashing in on the housing crisis.

RV Palo Alto
RVs parked along El Camino Real in Palo Alto. (CBS)

These landlords buy old, used-up RVs and rent them to homeless people or low-income workers to live on the streets.

"Whenever you have an entrepreneurial community and capitalism, there's going to be people who find a way to make a buck off it," said Brian Greenberg, CEO of Lifemoves, a Peninsula agency that houses the homeless. "It's a solution for some people who would otherwise be living unsheltered or in their cars."

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KPIX first learned of the situation during a crackdown by Palo Alto police on RVs illegally parked too long in the same place on the streets.

Tow truck operator Brenton McFarland says many of the RVs he tows are not owned by their occupants. "Let's just say I was coming to tow it. Right now, they'll say 'I'm living in it.' We'll ask them, 'Are you the registered owner?' They're like, 'No, I just rent it from a guy.'"

But it's an arrangement with a big problem for the tenants, who can lose their belongings if the RV does get towed.

"They're not even legally the registered owner of it," said McFarland. They can't even claim their property out of it until the owner comes out there to help them out."

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"For the last several months, the Palo Alto Police Department has seen a definite increase in complaints of RVs parked on the El Camino corridor as well as other neighborhoods in Palo Alto," said Palo Alto Police Sgt. Alex Afanasiev.

Could it be that RV landlords are increasing the number of RVs on Palo Alto streets? Police are looking into it. "This is actually something we've been recently made aware of, and we are looking into that," said Afanasiev.

A source told KPIX that landlords are charging between $400 and $500 a month to live in their vehicles, and seek used RVs in neighborhood driveways and on Craigslist for this purpose.

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