Caitlin J. in the doorway of her underground bunker.

Caitlin J., a 42-year-old TV producer, lives in a one-bedroom bomb shelter in Southern California.She’s living in the underground bunker to save up enough money to buy a condo by next year.She said that living in the bunker has challenges, but they’re worth it to save $2,000 a month.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Caitlin J., 42, about her experience living in a Southern California bomb shelter. She has requested to have her last name and exact location omitted for privacy reasons, but her identity has been verified by Business Insider. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I’m from Long Beach originally. But I work in entertainment, so I move around a lot.

After living on the East Coast for a while, I moved back to Southern California this year. Upon returning, I found myself thinking, “I’d love to save some money and buy a condo, but how am I going to do this?”

In most Southern California neighborhoods, home prices typically start in the high five to seven figures. The real-estate market is pretty competitive, too. My brother was searching for a home for four years and got outbid every single time.

I have a really good job, and I could easily afford an apartment. But in my mind, it seems ridiculously wasteful to spend $3,000 a month on something I don’t own.

I knew that a friend of mine had purchased a house complete with a bomb shelter in its backyard about two years ago, and she wasn’t keen on maintaining the rear part of her property.

I met with her and suggested a solution: If she allowed me to rent the bomb shelter at a very discounted rate, I would ensure its upkeep.

Caitlin in her underground bunker.

I’ve been living in the bunker for about 25 days now. She’s only charging me $500 a month, and there are no utilities.

It’s a steal. You can’t even rent an apartment for less than $1,800 in the area.

I may live in a bunker, but I’m not a doomsday prepper

Everyone keeps asking me if I have a secret or if I’m a doomsday prepper. My family also thinks I’m nuts — but this wouldn’t be the weirdest thing I’ve done.

I’m not being coerced, nor am I being kidnapped. Honestly, I’m just renting from a friend!

The bomb shelter occupies about three-quarters of an acre and spans 1,100 square feet.

Essentially, it’s divided into two wings, each equipped with its own kitchen — a full-size refrigerator and microwave included. There is no oven.

One side features the main bedroom with a shower and toilet, resembling a small bathroom area. On the other side, you’ll find another shower and two toilets. I believe it’s designed to sleep around 22 people.

Caitlin in the kitchen of the bunker.

The bunker is equipped with generators and its own air filtration system. Despite being underground, it has heating and air conditioning.

It really never gets hot though. Even when it’s 100 degrees outside, it stays a cool 70 degrees below ground. It’s incredibly convenient.

It doesn’t have windows, so there’s no natural sunlight. However, there are two exits, which is the legal requirement for a rental in California. I keep those doors open, allowing sunlight to filter down both staircases.

I also purchased a $20 light from Amazon for the bedroom area. Every morning, it turns on like the sun, gradually changing shades throughout the day.

I had to downsize to fit everything in the bunker

Before moving into the bunker, I lived in a three-bedroom house. Knowing that everything wouldn’t fit, I decided to put most of my stuff in a storage unit that I rent for $450 each month.

I only brought in what I feel like I need — my clothes, bathroom essentials, and a few home furnishings. There’s already a bed, couches, and tables here, so there’s no need for much more.

Caitlin sitting on her bed.

I’ve lived in cities my whole life, so I went from being surrounded by noise to absolute silence.

The first couple of nights in the bomb shelter, I slept for like 12 hours. I remember thinking, “This is not good. I have a job.” I started putting on rain sounds from my phone, just to have background noise.

The silence has been nice, though.

I work on various television shows, all from my computer with internet access in the bunker. It’s been great because there aren’t many distractions. I don’t hear police sirens or anything. It’s really quiet, which allows me to focus.

Living on someone else’s property is not so bad. I enter the property through the back gate, so I almost never see my friend unless I ask her to hang out or she invites me over. It’s a really good roommate situation.

I always get asked what would happen if I got locked in the bunker, which is funny because it’s not in a parking lot — it’s in a backyard. If something were to happen, I’d call my friend or the police.

Living in a bunker is similar to living in an RV

I have a lot of friends who live in different cities all over the United States. Everyone is faced with the same problem right now: interest rates have made buying homes unaffordable.

I’ve had a lot of friends start living in RVs to save up for a down payment. I feel like my situation is similar to theirs.

So far, it’s working. I’m probably saving about $2,000 a month living in the bunker.

Caitlin at the bunker’s doorway.

My end goal is to rent this bunker for about a year and then buy a condo or a small house somewhere in Southern California. Depending on what I find and if interest rates come down, it could be a little shorter or a little longer.

Before the pandemic, homeownership felt like it was out of reach — and now it feels like it’s even further out of reach for new homebuyers.

I hope that states will implement more first-time homebuyer programs in the future because, right now, everyone’s just scrambling to find affordable housing.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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