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Idaho shipping-container home on view as HUD Secretary Ben Carson touts D.C. house show

A shipping-container home from Idaho will take the stage for its biggest audience yet as it sits within view of the Washington Monument and other monuments on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

And it’s drawing the attention of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, the former presidential candidate.

After driving three steel container modules across the country, workers for Boise’s IndieDwell set up the home as part of a five-day Innovative Housing Showcase that begins Saturday.

The event, expected to attract more than 2,500 people, examines new technologies that can make housing more affordable and more resilient to natural disasters.

Builders of shipping container homes and traditional manufactured homes face resistance from people who think they’re cheap and shoddy, Carson told the Idaho Statesman on Friday.

“People say, ‘I don’t want these in my back yard,’” Carson said in a phone interview. “We’re hoping to burst some of that, because if they can get the opportunity to look at some of these models and see they’re not what they thought, I think some of that resistance would start to disappear.”

Scott Flynn, IndieDwell’s CEO, said his company is grateful for the opportunity to show off one of its homes and talk up the concept.

“What’s going to come out of it? We don’t know,” Flynn said in an interview. “But it’s the biggest stage in the world.”

IndieDwell created its first container home, a 640-square-foot model made from two 40-foot-long shipping containers, in January 2018. The two-bedroom, one-bath house cost $65,000 uninstalled.

The Boise company, which now has a factory in Caldwell, put the home — 16 feet wide and 9 1/2 feet high — on display to show people that a boring box could be transformed into something attractive, comfortable and trendy.

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Workers from IndieDwell prepare a container home before the start of a five-day conference on affordable housing options on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Sammy Mayo Jr. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Flynn, whose side company, Flynner Homes, builds high-end custom homes using green building concepts, says his container homes are up to 50 percent more efficient than a traditional wood-framed home built to minimum code standards.

They include an energy-recovery ventilator, which Flynn uses in his custom homes, that makes household air more comfortable and healthier by constantly exchanging fresh air from outside with stale air inside. It costs about $55 a month for electricity, including heating and air conditioning, he said.

IndieDwell has completed 15 homes. The first one was installed late last year off Whitewater Park Boulevard, in the 800 block of North 32nd St. Since then, seven others have been moved onto lots.

The company is working on homes for a developer putting in three four-plexes in McCall. IndieDwell is also building two duplexes in McCall and looking for land for additional duplexes there, Flynn said.

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A shipping container home from Boise’s IndieDwell sits on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The home was trucked across the country to take part in a five-day housing showcase that is expected to draw more than 2,500 people. Sammy Mayo Jr. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Other orders are coming from California, Colorado, Florida and Virginia, he said.

“The housing problem is so horrible people are looking for anything that is more affordable,” he said.

An open house will be held Saturday in Boise at the Windy Court complex that features four four-bedroom homes made by IndieDwell from three shipping containers. Leap Charities of Boise developed the complex, whose low-income tenants will move in next week. Their homes rent for $843 per month.

The open house will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 10000 W. Shields Ave.

Across the nation, Carson told the Statesman, there is a “tremendous crisis” surrounding the availability of affordable housing.

The Treasure Valley isn’t immune. The cost of an average two-bedroom apartment in Boise rose 20.2 percent last year to $1,344, according to an analysis by Apartmentguide.com.

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A home made from three shipping containers from Boise’s IndieDwell gets prepped before the start of a five-day housing affordable conference in Washington, D.C. Sammy Mayo Jr. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

While a $200,000 house may be what a median Ada County family can afford to buy, few homes are selling at that price or below. The median price for an existing home was $108,450 more than that in April, according to the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service. Next door in Canyon County, the median price was $234,000.

Container homes, small “tiny homes,” and modern manufactured homes are all viable alternatives to traditional site-built homes, Carson said.

“Some of the ideas that people have about manufactured housing is that it’s trailers,” Carson said. “That technology has advanced way beyond trailers. You’re looking at homes that look just as good if not better than site-built homes and that can be put up very quickly, and they cost 30 to 40 percent less.”

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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