Ship­ping-con­tainer homes near re­al­ity in McKin­ney

Cot­ton Groves aims to meet sub­ur­ban hous­ing needs

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - By NANETTE LIGHT Staff Writer nlight@dal­las­

If all goes ac­cord­ing to plan, town homes built from ship­ping con­tain­ers will be­gin ris­ing within a year on McKin­ney’s east side.

For now, it’s just a sliver of land and an old aban­doned house at the corner of Bumpas and Fitzhugh streets on McKin­ney’s east side.

But if all goes ac­cord­ing to plan, town homes built from ship­ping con­tain­ers will be­gin ris­ing up within a year on the site.

Named the Cot­ton Groves, the com­mu­nity is a new stock of af­ford­able hous­ing planned for the north­ern Collin County sub­urb.

North Collin County Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity pur­chased the nearly three-acre plot on the city’s east side in Novem­ber. Last month, McKin­ney City Coun­cil mem­bers unan­i­mously ap­proved plans for the 35-unit neigh­bor­hood de­vel­op­ment.

Us­ing ship­ping con­tain­ers for homes isn’t a new idea, but it’s a first for the Collin County non­profit. Habi­tat’s de­sign ad­vi­sory group, the JDL group, pitched the idea for the higher-den­sity con­tainer home com­mu­nity be­cause of their stur­di­ness, low­cost, quick-build and abil­ity to house more peo­ple.

“Cost of liv­ing in McKin­ney is not low. It’s an ex­pen­sive place to live,” McKin­ney Mayor Ge­orge Fuller said. “We have a lot of in­dus­try, a lot of busi­nesses that de­pend on a la­bor force that quite frankly can’t af­ford to live in the city.”

Each home will be made of four ship­ping con­tain­ers to cre­ate a 1,280-square-foot home. The homes will fea­ture three bed­rooms, two bath­rooms, a sec­ond-floor bal­cony and cov­ered car­port.

Habi­tat plans to sell the homes to peo­ple at 30 per­cent of their gross monthly in­come. Qual­i­fied ap­pli­cants must have lived or worked in north Collin County for one year, cur­rently be liv­ing in sub­stan­dard hous­ing and will­ing to con­trib­ute sweat eq­uity to help build their home and oth­ers.

“The ul­ti­mate goal was to serve more fam­i­lies,” said Ce­leste H. Cox, CEO of the North Collin County Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity. Cur­rently, the non­profit has about 170 peo­ple on its wait­ing list.

“We just can’t build fast enough to serve the need for hous­ing in Collin County,” she said.

Funds needed

But there’s still a ways to go be­fore it’s a vi­able com­mu­nity.

Habi­tat needs to raise $4.5 mil­lion to fund the project and plans to launch a cap­i­tal cam­paign in a few months.

The McKin­ney Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion is con­tribut­ing roughly $331,000 to­ward build­ing the homes.

And re­mem­ber that afore­men­tioned aban­doned home on the prop­erty? It’s con­tam­i­nated with as­bestos and lead­based paint.

Habi­tat has ap­plied to the

En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency for re­me­di­a­tion funds to clean up the home and then de­mol­ish it.

Then in­fra­struc­ture — wa­ter, sewer and roads — needs to be built.

There are plans for a pro­to­type home to be built next to Habi­tat’s of­fice this spring to show off to donors and po­ten­tial home­own­ers.

It’s un­clear how much the homes will cost, since it de­pends on their ap­praisal.

But Habi­tat own­ers won’t pay the full price. Cur­rently, Habi­tat’s three-bed­room home val­ues in north­ern Collin County range from $120,000 to $130,000, Cox said.

In Collin County, the me­dian home price in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2017 was more than $319,000 — nearly 50 per­cent higher than the na­tion­wide price of a typ­i­cal home, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors.

“There’s just not a lot avail­able in a price range fam­i­lies earn­ing $20,000 to $40,000 a year can af­ford,” Cox said. “And the ap­praised val­ues keep go­ing up.”

Con­stant chal­lenge

Al­ready, Cox said, the non­profit has heard from a church and pri­vate landown­ers ask­ing Habi­tat to build ad­di­tional con­tainer com­mu­ni­ties.

“It is a con­stant chal­lenge for cities to keep af­ford­able hous­ing,” Cox said. “As each of th­ese cities reach build­out, the need for more af­ford­able hous­ing — and just more hous­ing pe­riod — be­comes more des­per­ate be­cause there’s less land to build on.”

In a Face­book post, McKin­ney res­i­dents weighed in on the project. Some praised the de­vel­op­ment’s in­no­va­tive­ness, but oth­ers called the homes ugly and ques­tioned their safety.

“Ev­ery­one talks about how we want more restau­rants. We want more this. We want more that,” Fuller said. “Well, we need work­force, and we need to be able to house that work­force.”

North Collin County Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity

Ar­chi­tec­tural plans call for four ship­ping con­tain­ers to be used to cre­ate a 1,280-square-foot home. Each home will have three bed­rooms, two bath­rooms, a sec­ond-floor bal­cony and cov­ered car­port.

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