Contain This | Urban Living
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Contain This

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The first time I ever heard about someone living in a storage container was during the 1970s. Some guy was teaching people how to be "hobos" and ride trains across the country for free, as well as how to live in the containers when they were parked in a rail yard. I wanted to find that fellow because I did a lot of hitchhiking back then and thought catching trains might be a fun adventure. That didn't happen. But fast forward a half-century or so, and now people are buying used containers from China for a few thousand dollars each and converting them into apartments and homes.

My friend Jeffrey White started making 8-by-40-foot homes out of shipping containers about a decade ago in the Glendale neighborhood. His "Sarah House" had a combo living room and dining area, a bedroom, bathroom and another small area. As I recall, Salt Lake City didn't like his building plans and he ended up asking for forgiveness rather than permission. Now, White is an old hat at building mini-homes. He owns UBuild Container Homes, which helps clients design and build their own affordable places to live.

In Seattle, The Block Project is trying to end homelessness by placing a Block home in the backyard of one single-family lot on every residentially zoned block in the entire city. These homes are only 125 square feet, but they are solar-powered and self sufficient, and provide a nice space where a person can live out of the rain.

Eighty-three shipping containers are coming to Salt Lake City to house low-income folks in the first phase of a three-part project. Eco Box Fabricators is buying containers that have traveled the world and transforming them into low-income apartments that will certainly make a dent in our pathetic affordable-housing inventory. The first group of homes is six stories' worth of containers on top of containers. It will be assembled on the site of the old Devil's Daughter at 533 S. 500 West. The average cost of building one apartment in Salt Lake hovers around $250,000, but Rod Newman, the owner of Eco Box, says he'll be able to build a high rise at easily half the cost of a regular steel building.

There's already a wait list for the apartments, and KUER 901. FM reports that the builder is hiring workers who want to live in the spaces he's erecting. Many are coming from anti-poverty group circles. Good on ya, man!