Bay Area

In-depth: Oakland entrepreneur converts shipping containers into affordable housing

OAKLAND (KRON) - An Oakland entrepreneur is converting shipping containers into affordable housing. 

Luke Iseman lives in a shipping container in Oakland. 

"Fed up with rent, I realized it would be cheaper to buy a shipping container and convert it into something I could live in," Iseman said.

The living space is only 160 square feet but it offers all the basic necessities. There is plumbing, electricity, a shower, a full-size bed with storage built-in, and a desk for entertainment.

There is also a video projector and a remote-controlled drop-down movie screen.

"You have (a) small private bathroom, small kitchen with small versions of things, but very high quality," Iseman said. "Instead of (a) gas oven, you have a convection oven. When people walk inside, they are surprised it's the inside of a shipping container. It's more like a little cozy high-tech cabin."

Iseman's creation got a good reaction from people around the community looking for low-cost housing.

"People are very interested in renting them," Iseman said. "I have several in the area, and they are never vacant."

There are now five shipping container homes in Oakland being rented out for $1,200 a month.

"It's a lot like a standard apartment," said Nick, who is a computer programmer.

Nick said the cheaper rent helped him stay in the Bay Area.  

"It's one of the better places I've lived in," Nick said.

Nick was drawn to the privacy that the container home offers…no roommates.

"I really like that there are no shared walls," Nick said.

Feeling the demand for these tiny affordable houses, Iseman launched a startup named Boxouse, converting shipping containers into tiny homes and selling them for $8,000. 

"I think this could offer a way to help revitalize our neighborhoods and help create tons of new housing," Nick said.

Luke believes if these box houses could be placed anywhere like public streets, driveways, or unused parking lots, it could help cut down on homelessness and take a dent out of the housing crises in the Bay Area. But that is not allowed under current housing codes.

Right now, there is only one place that someone can legally live in a shipping container home.

"If you have a single-family home in the State of California with a backyard, you can put a box house, or any small home, in your backyard," Iseman said.

Boxouse is now marketing the containers to homeowners interested in creating an in-law unit to rent. 

"My goal is for people to use these as a tool to stay in the neighborhood they want to, both as renters and property owners."

Living in a box…that's thinking outside the box.  

If you're interested in a container house, Boxouse is holding open houses.

And if you want the full experience, they offer overnight stays for people to test run the unique living space.

Learn more about Boxouse on their website. 

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