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Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. The effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.

Artist Heather Stewart is one of 20 people who live and work in this small community in shipping containers, or other types of tiny houses. Most are standard containers six meters long.

She is installing plumbing and wiring in her unit.

“We all have enough tools that we can pass them around, so then everybody has the resources they need to build what they want," said Stewart.

Stewart and her friend Luke Iseman have been here since April, after city officials ordered them to remove their housing containers from a property they had bought with friends in an industrial section of Oakland. They were told they were violating local zoning codes.

They relocated to a massive warehouse at an undisclosed location, where they and their friends have installed a dozen containers costing about $2,000 each.
Iseman got the idea after he helped create a metal-working factory in a shipping container that was shipped intact to Kenya. He says it made him realize how useful the structure can be.

“A roof that doesn’t leak and a floor that’s level. So from there, it’s more or less esthetic modification," said Iseman.

The container houses are adapted for the artists and others who live here, like designer Camille MacRae.

“It’s really interesting to be in this space because there are other people doing similar things, and just to have this richness of ideas and exchanges happening," said MacRae.

People in other cities are experimenting with shipping container houses, and Iseman says there may well be others on San Francisco Bay that are hidden from view.

“People have been secretive about it because institutions impose large fines if you don’t comply with their rules," he said.
Iseman and his friends say the lack of affordable housing calls for creative solutions.