Container home rendering. Courtesy of MIAMI REALTORS®.

Solving Miami’s Housing Crisis One Container at a Time

By Anthony SanFilippo

Sometimes, thinking outside the box means getting into one.

At least that is what some forward thinkers in Miami are doing to try to help solve the area’s housing crunch.

A venture launched by the MIAMI Association of REALTORS® is refurbishing shipping containers to create compact homes for lower-income buyers on lots in Miami-Dade County.

Shipping containers, which are plentiful in Miami since it’s a port town, are typically 20 or 40 feet in length. Developers from the Little River Box Company are cutting 10 feet off two 40-foot containers to meet the City of South Miami’s minimum set back requirements and converting them into an attractive 480-square foot modular home for a demonstration project.

Miami-Dade has one of the country’s largest housing gaps between wealthy and lower income individuals and families. As such, these container homes could help stabilize the affordable housing need for many in the community.

Rather than building large, high-rise condominium or apartment complexes, building single-family homes on spare lots could go a long way.

CARGO CONTAINER HOMES

MIAMI REALTORS® hired the Little River Box Company to create test versions of these cargo container homes to see if they could be a success.

“Miami-Dade County residents need more housing options in areas that are ideally located closer to work and mass transit,” said José María Serrano, Chairman of the Board for MIAMI REALTORS®. “Container homes are a viable, trendy solution with many inherent benefits. [We are] building this prototype to demonstrate to our community that container homes can be cost effective, functional and aesthetically pleasing and to identify any barriers to construction.”

But the dream is even bigger.

Gayle Zalduondo, the founding partner of the Little River Box Company, told the Miami Herald that her team has plans to create communities out of these cargo containers, potentially stacking them on top of one another to create apartment-like dwellings. This could be a benefit for workers, or even teachers, who don’t make enough in salary to find an affordable home reasonably close to the school where they work.

The notion is that these container homes could even be set up on school lots, so teachers can have homes basically where they work.

“Right now, we’re doing one a week,” Zalduondo told the Herald. “We want to start doing one a day.”

These container homes are being built to South Florida code.

MIAMI REALTORS®, which is covering some of the building costs, spent the better part of two years securing the appropriate permits to assemble the containers into a one-bedroom, one-bath cottage on the 6100 block of 63rd Terrace.

About $25,000 was added to the budget after a review board added landscaping and other upgrades beyond what was stated in the municipal code during their review process.

PRICED TO BE AFFORDABLE

The container home is being sold “at cost”.  So, any budget increases of this nature are documented as part of the study and are to be reported back to the county and city upon completion of the project.  The total price tag could be as much as $180,000, but through partnerships, MIAMI REALTORS® is optimistic the future homeowner will pay less.

And, that’s great because there is a caveat – these homes must be sold to a buyer who earns less than $51,000 a year. That’s within the lower range of Miami-Dade’s workforce-housing program, which assists individuals or families who have a steady income but can’t afford a home. Additionally, future sales would require that these container homes can only be sold to workforce buyers, not investors.

While $180,000 may seem high for such a compact home, the price would still make it one of the cheapest houses in South Miami.

The County Commission’s Housing committee approved transferring a surplus lot to the development team in November. Originally plotted in 1925, this is the first time that anything will be built on the land.

MIAMI REALTORS® broke ground on January 9 and is now accepting buyer applications in partnership with South Miami’s Community Redevelopment Agency (SMCRA).  For more information, contact Danielle Blake at danielle@miamire.com.


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