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Could IndieDwell shipping container homes solve Boise low-income housing problem?

Housing entrepreneur Scott Flynn, founder and CEO of IndieDwell, is converting storage containers into affordable homes.
Housing entrepreneur Scott Flynn, founder and CEO of IndieDwell, is converting storage containers into affordable homes. Idaho Statesman file

For two years this column has searched for ways to meet the Treasure Valley’s affordable-housing crisis, but with only modest success. Then – bingo! – a company called IndieDwell pops onto the front page of the Idaho Statesman on Feb. 5 promising to build hundreds, maybe thousands, of low-cost homes using shipping containers.

The company’s CEO and inventor, Scott Flynn, has since received a rush of inquiries for their 640-square-foot, highly-efficient two-bedroom, two-bath homes. No wonder: It will cost $65,000, complete with kitchen and bathroom. If the company gets into full manufacturing mode next year, as Flynn expects, IndieDwell could build hundreds of units a year.

The first such homes could be provided by Leap Charities, a nonprofit headed by Bart Cochran, a Realtor with the Boise property management firm PropertyPeople. Last August I wrote about how Leap leased five residences for newly arriving refugees. Now they’ve applied for funding to build four four-bedroom shipping container homes on a lot in West Boise.

The homes themselves will be a showplace.

Leap intends to build the units for large families, including people with disabilities and the elderly, whose income is below $18,000 a year. Potential funding will come from a federal program, the National Housing Trust, meant to benefit those of extremely low income, the elderly and the disabled.

Boisean Cay Marquart donated the land for the homes. It will be called Windy Court to honor Marquart’s father Keith “Windy” Windrum. The homes will use three 220-square-foot repurposed shipping containers. Electricity will be provided through a $60,000 donation from Evergreen Technology. There will be lots of raised beds for gardening.

Flynn and his partner, Pete Gombert, are getting interest from Denver and other areas for their product. Their first preference is to build in Boise, where a 2015 housing study by the city found a deficit of more than 8,000 housing units for residents with incomes classified as very low and extremely low. The study predicted that 9,500 housing units were needed over the next decade to maintain current housing conditions.

It seems certain a great new housing idea has come to the Treasure Valley. Then the great question is, where is the land and financing for them? Stay tuned. The search continues.

Jerry Brady is a member of Compassionate Boise, and is a lawyer who practiced international trade law.