Duluth group to try converting shipping containers into low-cost housing

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Duluth has lots of residents searching for affordable places to live. There are also plenty of shipping containers arriving regularly in the Twin Ports when the season is open.

Now, the News Tribune reports a non-profit housing developer and an architect will try converting a couple of those big containers into housing to see if it might be a way to help relieve homelessness in the city.

The executive director of Center City Housing Corp. tells the News Tribune he'll be working on plans with an architect this week and hopes construction of a prototype can begin in May. The newspaper says the steel containers measure 8 feet wide and 40 feet long with a 9-and-a-half foot ceiling.

Center City Housing says it is Duluth's leading non-profit provider of affordable housing, with $20 million worth of developments since 1986. Executive Director Rick Klun tells the News Tribune used shipping containers sell for $1,000 to $5,000 apiece and volunteer labor could help keep development costs down.

Shipping containers, of course, are found in port cities around the world and the idea of living in them is not new. One of the most recent developments is in the United Kingdom. The Daily Mail reported in December that the Brighton Housing Trust opened a block of 36 apartments made from shipping containers.

Brighton Housing Trust's chief executive told CNN in January: "I was initially very skeptical about housing people in metal boxes ... but the containers have been converted to an extremely high standard."

The Daily Mail reported a YMCA in London was making plans to use containers in two London developments.

Architect Doug Zaun tells the News Tribune he will propose several designs for turning the containers into housing. "I’m confident we can meet the challenge, and this steel shell can be transformed into something people will find appealing,” he says.

Advocates for Duluth's homeless population say 29 people who were living outdoors died last year.

That helped convince the city council to become the first Minnesota city to pass a Homeless Bill of Rights in January.

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