Old Shipping Containers Could Be Inexpensive Homes For Many People.


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And I don’t think it’s that bad of an idea at all! So many people live in such dire poverty that imagine if we could provide them with a solidly-built 320 square foot home that has a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping areas & windows – for only $8,000. I imagine we could move people out of the dangerous shacks that they are living in and get them into these “new” homes, making their life that much better. I came across this story over at CNN, and it is about a group of people who have formed a company called PFNC Global Communities (translated roughly to “Finally, our own home” in Spanish) who are working to get these houses into Mexico after seeing firsthand the way people were living there.

“We saw hundreds of homes that are made out of wood pallets and cardboard and scrap metal and scrap building material,” McCarthy said. When he questioned the bus driver, “he said, ‘Well, all the people who live here work in the places you just visited.”‘ “It was amazing to me that in an area where there was such growth and economic prosperity, that these employees of Fortune 1000 companies were living in such poor conditions.”

They want to create communities of these homes, stacking 2 high and 8 across to form “neighborhoods” – and they estimate that over 500,000 people (just in Juarez alone) could benefit from these new homes. They are working with lawyers in Mexico to make buying a house a “work-to-own” situation, with help coming from the employees that the residents work for. Fantastic idea, and yet another one I wish I was involved in. Maybe I can figure out a way to work with a program like this here in the U.S. to help those in need of a safe, sturdy new home. From the looks of them, the wife and I could live in one of these perfectly well!

For more info, check out PFNC Global Communities – pretty amazing stuff.

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  1. I saw these on tv. An Australian company is working on marketing these, particularly for disaster relief for major disasters such as the Tsunami a couple years back or a Hurricane like Katrina.

  2. I passed a semi the other day hauling a couple of these things and the guy I was riding with indicated they were taking them to a place that retrofits these things to make living quarters (apparently there is one nearby). It costs significant money to ship these things back to China empty, and I’m glad to see they can be put to good use.

  3. I think it could use a few windows. And without insulation, it would be either hot as hell or excruciatingly cold — depending on the outside temperature. But this is really cool nonetheless. 🙂

  4. Not if they were in Santa Monica or somewhere that temperate. I imagine they have some kind of something they are working on, but keeping the cost to $8K for lower-income people is the goal.

  5. These look great and there are so many of them available. I’ve often wondered when someone would come up with a good use for these. I used to use one at a lumberyard I managed as my excess storage for nails and metal products.

    In case you’re wondering, US exports to China have increased 300 percent since 2000. What we primarily ship to them either won’t fit into a container (large machinery) or is way too small to fit in one (pharmaceuticals and software). If the Chinese would allow their currency to free-float 100%, we would probably export a whole lot more.

  6. Hot…….shoot.
    Just cover them with solar panels, for shade.
    They can then have free electricity.
    Pipe in some water and they are good to go!!

  7. Not bad conceptually, unless you want people to actually live there. Human beings own belongings proportionate to their size of living space, and use 25% to 75% of their living space for storage. The less living space is available, the more usable and better organized the storage spaces must be. That’s one reason Japanese homes have such huge closets.

    As built, there’s no storage space in these homes whatsoever. That looks great when showing a property, but real humans need a place to hang (or lay) their clothing, bedding, and toiletries. They own things like hair brushes, deodorant, soap, and shoes. They also buy food and need a place to store it. Otherwise the clutter gets out of control and the occupant might as well be back in the shack.

    So here’s how I’d change the design.

    Bathroom: Lose the fancy post-modern sink unless you’re trying to market to upscale New Yorkers. The best bet is a 1950’s style vanity with drawers and cabinet space… or at least shelving below the sink. Stand-alone sinks are fashionable now because designers haven’t realized there’s nowhere to put a toothbrush.

    Bunk bedroom: Lowest bunks become captain’s style beds with drawers beneath.

    Adult bedroom: One corner becomes a closet. Also, consider Murphy bed?

    Kitchen: Too much space is wasted on American-style appliances, which is ironic because the cities where these houses are going generally won’t have reliable electricity. Get rid of the full-sized refrigerator and stove. Have a Euro-sized fridge and half-sized oven with two burners. This will be cheaper and it can free up more space to use for cabinetry or at least shelving. If it’s not too cost prohibitive you could put in a window over part of the counter area, because that’s where the female of the house is going to spend all her time. Also, hang hooks from the ceiling. That’s how chili ristras and onion chains are stored, and it’s also useful for storing pots, pans, and other things.

  8. Let’s take care of our own here at home. I would Love to have one of these homes as I feel certain many a working single parent in America that is struggling would also love to. American’s should take care of American’s.

  9. Jenna – great in theory, if Americans could ever get over themselves and live in one. And American’s are no better humans than anyone else; we should take care of all of us.

  10. This was a great post and I would like to touch on a few comments. As far as America for Americans, now as in the past, most Americans have parents or grandpartents from other countries and therefore, ties to other lands. Good portions of their incomes already go to other countries to help relatives still living there so why not send a few shipping containers their way? What are we doing with them here?

    Jenna, I aggree that there are tons of people here in America that are in need of better forms of housing but I don’t think that many people here would want to live in a shipping crate even though it is a decent form of shelter…Most Americans want what “The Jones” have or what they see on tv.

    And I don’t think it has to do with the size of the home, because some people in NYC live in apartments roughly the same size, it has to do with that deadly sin called pride…But in countries where you have people living in shacks of plywood and tin roofs i think this would be a great solutions…

  11. I do agree that most Americans want “The Jones Life” including me as well. I have been guilty of that in the past but have learned the hard way that living outside of your financial means will backfire sooner or later. So I have since adjusted my way of living and spending though I do still have a long way to go. My goal is to be debt free with a nice emergency fund just incase.

    I think these low cost housing solutions would be acceptable by more Americans than most even realize. I know many lower income families that would be tickled pink to have a place to rest their head that they can call their own, even if it is a recycled shipping container home. Though I do agree that these homes are kind of on the small size and not insulated well enough to be used in Michigan where I reside. So putting up some interior walls with some insulation and joining 2-3 containers would make a decent sized home for the average size American family.

    I also like the industrial look and the durability of the shipping container home.

    Mary in Camden, MI. USA

  12. We have recently been working with containers as part of the Chengdu rehabilitation effort in China.

    We realized early on that they were too limiting as a housing unit (too many people), but they make great community center when grouped together in 6-7 20′ or 40′ containers.

    Library, training centers, aid distribution points, etc.

    and the great thing is that they can be moved easily, or stored, for the next time these are needed in short notice.


    I’m seriously freaking out about how cool this is. Over the summer, I was working at a Boy Scout camp as an assistant cook, and I lived rather comfortably in a room with five other people that was a lot smaller than a shipping container. This would work really really well!

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