Skyrocketing rent is quickly becoming the norm in major American cities, especially in popular areas like San Francisco Bay. And, in the case of this single mother, things got so desperate that she had to move into a garage.
Still, housing in California’s Silicon Valley – so-called for being home to some of the world’s biggest technology companies – is infamous for being ridiculously expensive. The average rent in the area is, for example, estimated to be around $4,000 per month.
Indeed, while many other large North American cities, such as Vancouver and New York, have also experienced rises in rent, Silicon Valley is on another level. And it’s thought that high-paid tech employees are the main reason for the Bay Area’s high cost of living.
Whatever the reasons, though, even a one-bedroom apartment in the city of San Jose, one of the cheaper areas in the Valley, now costs an average of $2,244 per month. That’s up almost $200 on 2015. But rental prices in the more popular destinations within the Valley are simply eye-watering.
For example, in the city of San Mateo, a popular suburb just south of San Francisco, average rent for one-bedroom accommodations is $2,590. It’s no surprise, then, that a recent report lists San Mateo as the seventh most expensive place to buy a house in the United States, with an average price of $1.46 million.
It’s this attractive suburb that Nicole Jones and her daughter called home. And while things seemed to be going great for the new mom for a while, that all changed when Jones lost her job and suddenly wasn’t able to pay the rent on her apartment.
As a result, Jones was forced to live in a shelter while looking for a new job and a place to stay. She did eventually manage to find work as a bartender, but her income was no longer sufficient to afford even a single-bedroom apartment in San Mateo.
So Jones decided to do something that most people would find shocking – live in a garage. But at a cost of $1,000 per month, it was one of the few accommodation options she could afford in the area.
However, despite how bad the idea of living in a garage might sound, the reality was actually not so bad. The garage had, in fact, been converted into a proper living space, even including a bathroom with a walk-in shower in the back.
Indeed, you’d be excused if you thought this was nothing more unusual than a cramped studio apartment, because the only thing that gives away its real identity is the garage door. The converted space even has a window, making it nearly indistinguishable from a normal apartment from the inside.
In Jones’ own words, “I know it’s a garage. But this was nicer than everything that I had looked at that was almost twice this price.” And judging from pictures, the converted room looks quite homely.
For instance, the converted garage is able to fit a large bed, a cabinet with a widescreen TV, and a kitchen area consisting of a fridge with a microwave and toaster oven. In this sense, the single area works as the living room, bedroom and kitchen for Jones and her family.
But we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t more than a little cramped. After all, the garage has a total area of only 250 square feet. By comparison, the average new apartment in the United States is almost four times larger at 982 square feet.
As Jones told CNN with a bittersweet smile, “There’s no playing sports or doing little soccer games down the hallway, because this is it. What you see is what you get.” But it certainly beats living out on the street.
The struggling mom, who later gave birth to a baby boy, said the experience has redefined the way she looks at the homeless. “I thought homeless people were panhandlers or… drug addicts and alcoholics who didn’t want to do anything for themselves,” she explained.
Naturally, though, Jones’ story generated a lot of heated discussion about who was at fault for her situation. In fact, Jones told local news that she had even received “hateful emails” that moved her to tears because people were passing judgment without knowing her personally.
Indeed, many harsh online comments were critical of Jones for not only deciding to have a second child without a reliable source of income, but also for refusing to move elsewhere. However, Jones said she likes living in San Mateo and has no plans to move.
To make matters worse, though, Jones’ landlord wasn’t too pleased with the publicity surrounding the story, and Jones said there was a good chance that he might decide to kick her out. Through it all, though, Jones said she’s not looking for pity or charity.
“I don’t expect a handout. I don’t expect a pity party,” the single mom told local news. “I’m proud of my situation. It’s not ideal, but it’s not something I’m ashamed of.”
Regardless of the cramped space and other downsides of living in a garage, though, Jones is simply happy that she’s not out on the street. She even said that she was glad that the situation happened, claiming that it “did wonders” for her.