Tomas Andujar |
Palma (EFE).- Fifty motorhomes are parked in a few streets in Ciudad Jardín, an urbanization next to the sea on the outskirts of Palma. They are houses on wheels that form a mobile “neighborhood” where workers live who cannot or do not want to dedicate the bulk of their income to renting apartments at the price of gold.
These concentrations of caravans and adapted vans do not stop increasing in the Balearic capital. There are already some 200 in the parking lot of the Son Hugo swimming pools, in the streets of Son Malferit, Son Dameto and Ciudad Jardín, where the house-vehicles share space with chalets worth millions of euros.
The Balearic Islands have the fifth lowest average salary in Spain and Palma is the fifth capital with the most expensive rents in the country. Gross salary has grown in a decade on the islands by around 10% and has barely increased from 2016 to 2021 (0.6%). In contrast, between 2012 and 2022 the price per square meter of rent in the city has increased by more than 50% and in the last five years, almost 15%.
Diego, Toni, Juan José, Cristina, Salvador, Ana, Jorge and Andrea live in motorhomes, and they do so because the rental alternative would mean a greater loss of quality of life and expectations of improvement than the option they have chosen.
They have very different personal histories, ages ranging from their early 40s to early 70s, and diverse economic circumstances, but they are all hardworking and earning.
“You make an investment and then you forget about it”
Diego, 45, is a bus driver. «Paying rent at the figures that are being paid now is unreasonable. I have a job, I am intermittently fixed, but I am not willing to pay a rent of 400 euros to share. Here I don’t have to put up with anyone », he explained to EFE.
He has equipped his caravan, which he bought years ago for 12,000 euros, with everything he needs. In about 15 square meters it has a kitchen, bathroom, gas heating, television, air conditioning, internet connection and Play Station powered by the electricity generated by its solar panels.
He has an alarm, a security camera and two motorcycles and a car parked on his small “parcel”, in front of which he has set up a small garden, and he has relationships with a dozen neighbors with caravans and vans that almost fill the street, because the phenomenon grows and grows. “Friends have come to visit me and they say: ‘Fuck, you can’t park at your house anymore,'” she jokes.
In the same area of Son Malferit, Andrea, who lives delightedly in a “beautiful” caravan with her partner, settles from time to time. They both work, but they prefer the caravan to renting an apartment. “You make an investment and then you forget about it. Solar panels and gas », she defends.
The water for the bathrooms and kitchens is loaded at a “green point” set up by the Palma City Council in the Son Castelló industrial estate, where they can also empty and clean the waste tanks.
pass the bump
Jorge, another caravanner residing in the area, has been living a way of life for three years that he adopted to “pass the pothole” caused by an accident that reduced his income, but he is setting up a business and hopes to return to living between bricks.
He was a regular at Ciudad Jardín, but he left because, because of a few disrespectful people, he says, sometimes there were tensions with the neighbors and the police prevented long-term parking.
A neighbor states that the presence of home-vehicles began “eight or ten years” ago and has been increasing, causing occasional disputes, aesthetic impact and distrust among owners. In his opinion, the Police are not doing what they should: “It’s a disaster.”
The municipal ordinance prohibits parking a vehicle in the same place on a street for more than ten consecutive days, but nothing prevents changing space by a few meters.
Palma’s Councilor for Decent Housing, Neus Truyol, assures that the council is “tremendously” concerned about people who live in vehicles, forced to adopt “desperate alternatives” due to high prices. Therefore, she calls for more state investment in the construction of public housing.
“We take care of each other”
In Ciudad Jardín there are caravans and vans that serve as homes and “people sleeping inside the cars,” says Salvador, about to go to work with his house on wheels. With a year and a half of experience, he highlights the main advantage of the concentration of residential vehicles: “We take care of each other.”
In fact, the surveillance of empty caravans that their owners leave in these “neighborhoods” is another of the collective functions of stable caravanners, who even have WhatsApp groups to help each other and stay informed.
Cristina, 78, shares her dog in a well-kept caravan in the parking lot of the Son Hugo swimming pools. She had a house in Palma, but the turns of her life have led her to occupy a house with a motor. “I simply didn’t find a flat that I could afford,” she explains without bitterness.
Next door is his home parked by Juan José, who suffered an accident that led to a four-year legal process. “You are losing everything along the way”, and when the end comes “you are going to rent an apartment and they ask you for 700 euros. How are you going to pay that if you charge 1,000? », He counts.
Another resident of the place, Toni, a crane operator on leave, requested a loan to buy the motorhome in which he hopes to recover from a complicated surgery and be able to return to living on concrete. «There is no comparison with a house, but you live as you can. If you’re cold, then cover yourself up», he resigns himself.