Roughly one in five homes in Revelstoke is a trailer. Many of them sit on prime land close to downtown. But trailers are caught in a funny neither-nor where as they age, few bother to renovate, remove or re- build them. Why? So long as a landlord receives rent, there’s little incentive to do anything. Rob Elliott has flipped three run-down trailers, initially as a way to generate rental revenue, but now to offer entry for first-time homebuyers in the market. Reved Quarterly sat down with Rob to talk trailers.
RQ—What’s the trailer situation in Revelstoke?
RE—Twenty per cent of the town lives in trailers. Trailers were allowed to come in when we were desperate for housing. Now they are sitting there in various states of repair in the Big Eddy, Johnson Heights and the whole Southside. Like Detroit, we built them 40 years ago to handle an influx of people, then the influx of people dissipates and many new people who come don’t want to live in trailers anymore.
RQ—Why can’t we just build newer, better small homes to replace them?
RE—We have a glut of trailers … The trailer park owner has no incentive to get rid of [an old trailer] because he loses a tenant. Thecosttobringituptocodeishigh,sowe’reinabitofaNo Man’s Land on this stuff. You can’t get any financing to buy it or fix it, so they just sit there. I don’t want to sound cavalier or insensitive because not all the trailers are run-down. Many people have pride in their neighbourhood and like living in their trailers. However, sometimes the quality of housing degrades and you have no pride in your neighbourhood. You don’t want to clean up.
Inside one of the three trailers Rob has renovated in the Big Eddy. PHOTO SUBMITTED.
RQ— Is that why you decided to flip trailers?
RE— I bought the trailers for rental revenue opportunities. Fixing them to sell was never my intent. I just saw an opportunity. I had a trailer that was in rough shape and I fixed it up with help from a friend. Another one right next door was on the verge of being condemned. It was basically trash. It was a can of worms. We decided to start fresh. People are going to small homes—600, 700, 800 square feet. If I can fix up a trailer and make it func- tional and livable and better than it was, what’s wrong with that?
RQ—You estimate 20 per cent of trailers are in bad shape but scrapping them is not an option. Do you think the City is too rigid on how it manages alternative and affordable living?
RE— Twenty percent in rough shape is a subjective statement on my part. I’m just curious where we’re going as a town. They want to encourage these big beautiful homes that they want people to develop but they have to deal with this mass of trailers here. They’re in place. They can be fixed. You can do some re- ally interesting things within that box. But there doesn’t seem to be any willingness to embrace that. Meanwhile, we build some affordable housing that no one can buy. What was the point?
RQ—Building or buying a home may be out of reach for many prospective home-buyers, but something as afford- able and alternative as a tiny home may be too cramped. Trailers I take it are a happy-medium.
RE—I think we’ve gone too big on homes in general. But there’s a time for a small home—1,000 sq. ft. is great for single person but you don’t stay single forever. You acquire stuff and 20 to 30 years down the road you have too much stuff and 1,000 sq. ft. may not work for you, three kids and a dog. If I were looking for a home in the $60-70,000 range, a trailer at least gets you into the housing market.