Living in a Shipping Container: The New Look of Affordable Housing?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The increasing challenge of affordable homeownership has been well documented – and renting an apartment is getting to be a similar fiscal strain. But if you could build a home for less than half the square foot cost of a conventional home, would you make the move? What if it meant living in a shipping container?

Living in a Shipping Container

© TheStreet Living in a Shipping Container: The New Look of Affordable Housing?

Maybe it’s time to think inside the box. Steel shipping containers – stacked aboard ships and trains to haul freight around the world – eventually land empty and unused. There are estimated to be some 20 million surplus containers ready to be repurposed. A 40-foot-long container costs anywhere from $1,400 to $4,000, and with a little patch of land, the installation of a foundation, electricity and plumbing, you’ve got yourself a sturdy little 320-foot homestead. And at about half the cost of a conventional house, according to the website of home renovation expert Bob Vila.

And nobody says you have to stop with just one. These things can be stacked up to nine high and then connected and assembled as sprawling units. The trend is spreading, not just for homeowners but for renters – particularly Millennials who prefer convenient urban living and compact spaces.

“We lock them together,” Micheal Kenner, a Nashville developer, told The Tennessean.Whatever you can do with Legos, you can do with these.” Kenner is transforming about a dozen of the units into “micro apartments” in the Music City. Nearly two dozen were recently converted into retail stores, restaurants and offices in a Nashville healthcare and technology development.

New York-based SG Blocks, container provider for the Nashville projects, has delivered the units for projects around the nation: from a beach home in the Hamptons and a Starbucks in Salt Lake City, to the South Street Seaport in New York.

“It represents a progression in the technology of construction,” Paul Galvin, CEO of SG Blocks told TheStreet recently. “We repurpose containers from intermodal units of transportation into intermodal units of construction that are stronger and greener and more-efficient than traditional construction.”

The company says the containers meet or exceed structural safety codes, are corrosion resistant and reduce construction time by up to 40%. And you would think that these heavy steel boxes would absorb heat and transfer cold indoors, but SG Blocks says proper insulation provides “more than adequate heat and cold protection.”

–Hal M. Bundrick is a Certified Financial Planner and contributor to MainStreet. Follow him on Twitter: @HalMBundrick

This article was originally published on MSN Real Estate. See it here.

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