SHIPPING CONTAINER HOMES
AN EXCITING NEW CONCEPT FOR LOW INCOME HOUSING
By G. LEE AIKIN, DCSGP
Candidate for COUNCIL CHAIR, Nov. 4, 2014
The lack of low cost housing is one of our major problems in DC. We are now growing at the rate of 1,000 new people a month. However, it is becoming harder and harder to find moderately priced (affordable) housing, and almost impossible to find
low cost housing. I have already written about this elsewhere on my blog.
That article on March 17, 2014 titled DC Low Income Housing Needs New Ideas points out that if the city keeps raising annual property assessments 10% and more, a mere 2% increase in rents will soon drive owners out of the rental market. Owners are faced with increased taxes every time a neighbor renovates their home. If one has not installed granite counters, stainless steel appliances, and fancy tiled bathrooms, why should the tax assessment be raised in parallel with the neighbor's fancy new house?
Therefore, if the Council continues to permit the 2% increase, they should also limit the increase for unimproved homes to no more than 2%. The increase in market value can be raised at time of sale at the actual market price.
I also wrote about the move to promote very small homes. These can work well as single units, but what of locations where apartment buildings make more sense or there is a high volume of need. Now I see a possible new solution: SHIPPING CONTAINER HOMES (Google that for many interesting articles). In addition, the Google site “Shipping Container Home Plans" has hundreds of photos of home plans and actual buildings, some of which are multistory, multifamily.
For ease of construction and mobility of units multistory steel frameworks could be designed and individual units inserted. The city could allow leasing of plots of land for 10, 20 and even longer periods of years for erection of these frameworks. Thus people could buy their own low cost unit and it could subsequently be moved to another part of the city if they change jobs or want to be closer to family. If a renter's economics improve or they are able to get funding from a bank or home ownership program, such units could even be permanently located on a foundation or pad. Thus the nearly universal wish for a home of ones own could be made available to many more people than is possible today.
At the recent Anacostia High School Mayoral Forum, I spoke with a vendor of "Street Sense" a newspaper by and for the homeless. I told him about the concept and described one of the 20 foot unit plans that had a bathroom with shower, and a kitchenette with an undercounter refrigerator. He said, "That is all I want, just a little place to call my own with a lock on the door." When I said I believe that a small unit like that could be built for $20,000 to $30,000, he became very excited.
Checking mortgage rates for such a 20 foot unit, I calculated various costs for a $30,000 unit. A 15 year mortgage at 4.5% would cost $230 per month. A 20 year mortgage at 4.5% would cost $190 a month. A 20 year mortgage at 4.5% for a $40,000 cost would require rent of $253 a month. A 40 foot unit might cost less than twice as much, and would be suitable for a childless couple or single parent with one child. Doubling the monthly pay yields $460, $380, and $506. Evening considering the extra costs of utilities, these prices are still very doable for many poor and low income people.
This site showing homes around the world has a low cost house built in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is number 15. Sarah House, and in a 12+ minute video the designer/builder explains how he has tried to make this house suitable for singles or seniors. It is constructed from two 8' by 40' containers, and the narrator estimates cost from $103,000 to $112,000 to build. He also points out that if mass produced, it would cost a lot less. The above price includes learning and experimentation costs.
I hope our city has some builders, architects, and politicians willing to explore new and creative ways to house our homeless and poor. Whether elected or not this November, I will try to help make this happen.
For creative leadership of the Council, VOTE G. LEE AIKIN, Nov. 4, 2014.