A boon for affordable housing: Shipping containers


HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — As access to affordable housing continues to be an issue in Virginia, officials are looking for innovative ways to fix the problem.

The 2019 Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference kicked off in Hampton on Wednesday and displayed homes that could be an answer.

“It is certainly not your traditional type of housing, and that’s whats exciting about it,” said Chris Thompson, director of strategic housing for Virginia Housing Development Authority.

Thompson said VHDA brought in indieDwell, a company that builds shipping container homes.

“There’s a huge inventory of containers waiting to be re-purposed, so what we’ve done is brought them here so people can walk through them to touch and see that experience,” he said.

Co-founder and executive chairman of indieDwell Pete Gombert told 10 On Your Side that only one out of every four shipping containers sent to the United States ends up leaving again.

Using the shipping container homes helps them upcycle 9,000 pounds of steel.

“It’s built in the same way as a traditional stick built home, but we do it in a controlled factory environment,” Gombert said. “We’re not exposed to the weather. We don’t have delays to the production and process.”

Gombert said while it usually takes six months to build a traditional home, residents typically can move in within a week.

Not only is it energy efficient, with utilities costing around $50 a month, it’s also durable with paint and siding expected to last decades. It also has very little waste production, according to Gombert.

He also said the homes can either be single-family or built into larger structures, which are stacked on top of each other. Prices for a home ranges from $55,000 to $479,000.

The company buys containers that will be soon taken out of commission after being used for six to eight years. If they are building stacked units, they’ll use containers that have only been used once, Gombert said.

Thompson said he hopes the conference and the display will help educate more people about affordable housing alternatives because the topic is important for the state.

“We have people paying more in mortgage and rent than what they should be able to, so they have to sacrifice in terms of other things like groceries or healthcare. So, what we’re trying to highlight is that there are alternatives to bringing more affordable housing into the commonwealth and try to open people’s eyes to what these alternatives are,” he said.

Company indiDwell said it is working with VHDA to possibly bring the two homes on display Wednesday to the City of Newport News.

To learn more, visit indieDwell.com.

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