Shipping containers to find new life housing Kentucky families - News, Weather & Sports

Shipping containers to find new life housing Kentucky families

Mary Shearer Mary Shearer

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - An innovative idea could put a roof over the head of families who need it the most and at the same time, reuse a hulking box of steel that would otherwise be around for a long while.

Shipping containers may hold more precious cargo around Kentucky than anyone would have ever imagined. You don't have to use your imagination because this is already happening in some parts of the country. In Kentucky, Habitat for Humanity said it took a tragedy to open eyes to the possibilities here in the Bluegrass.

They have all the elements of home sweet home -- hardwood floors, high ceilings and a place to lay your head -- except these homes started out as home instead to cargo shipped across the seas.

"The way our economics work, we're more of an importer than an exporter.  We have a lot of the shipping containers that are abandoned that aren't being used," said Auburn University professor Anthony Tindill.

Tindill led a group of students five years ago trying to turn shipping containers into quality housing. Since then, the trend has caught on with homes in North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and soon, Kentucky.

"We've got a lot of interest and a lot of buzz about this," said Mary Shearer with Kentucky Habitat for Humanity.

Shearer says the idea for shipping container homes in the Bluegrass started when tornadoes hit West Liberty in 2012.

"Habitat encountered a client base of an individual, elderly couple, family with children of such a low income that we really could not serve them with our typical program," she said.

A traditional Habitat home costs $50,000 or more, which is too much for a family living on $500 or $600 worth of benefits a month to pay back.

Shearer says a container home costs about half of that.  "We're going to be just around the $20,000 to maybe $23,000 range."

That includes new windows, doors, and insulation -- everything you can think of to make a box of steel feel like a home.

"We're going to put a traditional roof on it and it's going to have a front porch with that little dormer over it," she said.  "We want to expose some of the container aspects of it on the outside but we will also add some other sort of building materials, maybe wood, maybe some brick or stone."

Since cargo containers are made of steel, they're much stronger than your typical mobile home.  They can also be set into concrete or attached into the ground with poles.

Shearer knows that the idea may have its doubters. She believes you'll change your mind once you see it in action.

"We need a project to get it going to show, to invite people to come to see the process of building this," she said.

Habitat is looking at two places for its first container home. One will be built for two sisters in Hardin County who are currently living without heat, electricity or plumbing. The organization is also applying for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's Lots of Possibility program, which tries to find new uses for abandoned or foreclosed properties. 

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