Around the United States Shipping Containers Are Being Converted Into Housing

Across the nation, people are converting old shipping containers into low-cost housing. For some, they are an affordable, sustainable way of downsizing; for others, they represent a new tool in the fight against homelessness. But some municipalities and zoning boards are taking steps to limit the number of “tiny homes” made from shipping containers in their districts.
For proponents, the argument for steel shipping container homes is clear. Not only is steel the most recycled product on Earth, with 90% being recycled, but a steel shipping container can last an average of 25 years with almost no maintenance. And since there are an estimated 17 million containers in operation right now, they could serve as a ready-made supply for low-cost housing.
Some design these tiny homes with the very best luxury in mind, like Seattle-based Designer Karen Hirschman, who designed a tiny space as part of a fundraiser for the Washington Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.
“We’ve got a full built-in refrigerator with a freezer. We’ve got a full stackable washer and dryer. We’ve got a tankless hot water which takes up about four inches of space underneath a cabinet,” Hirshman said to KVUE. “It comes with all the bedding. It comes with the dishes, the pots, and pans. It’s got towels in the bathroom. We put toilet paper on the holder. It’s ready to go.”
Others, however, see these homes as an invaluable resource in the fight against homelessness. Los Angeles Potter’s Lane is one such example. This innovative housing project was constructed using shipping containers and allows the new residents — mostly homeless veterans — to pay a monthly rent of just $69, with an additional $1,259 being subsidized, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While almost 75% of Americans report living paycheck to paycheck, with 27% reporting no savings at all, the financial struggle of the homeless is often further complicated by either physical or mental disabilities or addiction.
These converted units are a prime example of supportive housing, which assists the homeless population as they transition to a more conventional style of life.
But despite their many benefits, not everyone is on board with these converted units. A Missouri Planning and Zoning Commission in Cape Girardeau has recommended a ban on using shipping containers for homes or businesses, according to the South East Missourian.
But even members of the Commission that voted in favor of recommending the ban seem to understand they are fighting an uphill battle. Kevin Greaser, who voted for the ban, told the South East Missourian: “It is obvious that these types of structures are becoming a little more popular.”

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