New Startup Tackles Urban Blight With Shipping Container Homes

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A new not-for-profit is aiming to combat poverty, unemployment, and housing problems all at once with one simple solution: shipping containers.

Urban designer and social entrepreneur Wanona Satcher founded ReJuve Corporation a little over a year ago with the intention of upcycling old shipping containers into the “tiny houses” that have become vogue for eco-conscious — but usually rural — home dwellers. ReJuve, however, wants to utilize these highly cost-efficient and practical living spaces for struggling urban communities that already have housing infrastructure in place but suffer from a lack of affordable developments.

“Inner city communities are plagued by increased housing costs, cheap land due to blight, lack of jobs and no access to services, technological and entrepreneurial resources and too many systems to navigate,” reads ReJuve’s crowdfunding page. So far, the company has raised nearly $5,000 of its $20,000 goal to put its first project into action. “As cheap property is acquired and then developed into high market housing existing families that can’t afford to stay are pushed out of their homes with no equity, no resources, no jobs, no ownership and no sense of community.”

The ready-to-go shipping container homes, what ReJuve calls “Plug In Pods,” are the ideal solution, Satcher says. With only 6 million of the estimated 17 million shipping containers around the world actually in use for trade, that leaves some 11 million containers that could be converted into homes for people in need of housing.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Satcher revealed that she also plans to start a for-profit company to manage real estate development, landscape architecture, master planning, and urban design services for ReJuve. The company isn’t solely focused on urban blight, either; Satcher envisions containers as useful for building more affluent homes, as well as medical clinics, schools, and other community necessities.

Since more than 17 million Americans already live in manufactured homes, prepackaged and predesigned shipping container homes might not be too far of a stretch. The average cost of a tiny home is just $23,000, compared to the average $272,000 for a standard U.S. home. Furthermore, 68% of tiny home dwellers have no mortgage, compared to more than 70% of regular homeowners who do.

Satcher says that ReJuve’s projects will do more than provide housing. They’ll beget jobs in construction and community planning, stem the spread of gentrification and urban displacement, and stimulate local economies.

Satcher’s long-term vision is to enable more opportunities for people in low-income urban centers. “Shipping containers just happen to be my tool of choice,” she said.

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