Oh Ship! How Shipping Containers Could Solve the Low-Cost Housing Crisis


Nationwide container sales

From rural areas to the luxurious urban neighborhoods of San Francisco and the hustle and bustle of New York City, the ability for Americans to get a foothold on the property ladder is increasingly in question, especially for those from low-income families. Debates about the affordability of housing surface in news debates on an almost daily basis, as millennials struggle with a housing market that is increasingly difficult to penetrate even at the lowest levels of the property market. There is a potential solution, in a rather unlikely place. Repurposing steel cargo containers could play a vital role in addressing that gap, bringing affordable multi-functional housing to the masses.

An Urban Institute report recently found that the crisis in affordable housing is impacting every part of the United States. for every 100 renter households falling extreme lower part of the low-income threshold, there are just 21 low-cost, livable housing units available. Even when federal income support is factored into the calculation, this figure rises to just 46 per every 100 such households.

One possible solution is to look to the more 11 million unused shipping containers around the world and repurpose them for housing. Specialist operators can transform the humble steel cargo container into an array of different building types ? from pop-up shops and concession stands to much-needed housing units. The addition of windows, doors, and skylights as well as interior modifications and additions such as climate control can create a house to the specifications of the owner and at much lower cost than buying a traditional home.

Shipping containers are hardy and are able to last 20 years or more with the right maintenance, according to Container Auction. They come in different sizes too, with the standard one capable of holding the equivalent of 3,500 shoe boxes and 40 foot shipping containers are able to hold over 8,000. Storage containers can be stacked and clustered together to create larger structures as well, making them adaptable for a variety of purposes.

Reusing shipping containers in this way also has a positive environmental impact, resulting in the reuse of more than 3,500 kg of steel, while also eliminating the use of the bricks, wood and mortar used in traditional housing construction.

As housing demand increases and costs continue to rise, the converted steel cargo container will offer a much needed, lower cost option for those looking to own their own homes and climb the first rung of the property market. Owning property can be an important driver of economic prosperity for families and in turn stimulate the economy, so opening the housing market to more people makes sense for a number of reasons.