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Could shipping containers be the answer to a lack of affordable housing in Bloomfield?

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Bloomfield City Councilor Ken Hare, right, discusses the city's recent economic development efforts, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, during the Northwest Regional Economic Outlook Forum at San Juan College in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — The City of Bloomfield really grew as a boom town in the 1950s and that meant a lot of single-wide trailers, according to City Councilor Ken Hare, who works as a real estate developer.

Over time, these trailers have deteriorated, but Hare said Bloomfield still needs options for affordable housing.

As he participated in discussions about economic development, Hare decided to try an experiment. He would, as a real estate developer, invest in building a house using shipping containers. He already had the land and he joined the Intermodal Steel Building Association, a group focused on shipping container homes and businesses.

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“I do think it’s a viable way to create affordable housing in Bloomfield,” Hare said.

He said the economic development discussions in the city have included aesthetics. The lack of affordable housing and the deteriorating condition of some of the mobile homes can make it hard to attract new businesses, Hare said. He hopes these shipping container homes can provide an affordable housing option that will not deteriorate like the single-wide trailers have over the years. 

Some communities in the United States have had luck with shipping container buildings, but Hare said it is still a new concept for San Juan County. This could present some challenges and he hopes his efforts will identify those challenges. One of the challenges he anticipates is financing. When he completes the home, he plans on selling it. Hare said it may be hard for buyers to find a lender willing to finance a shipping container house. He also anticipates there will be challenges in the permitting process.

Las Cruces-based Enchanted Sun Realty's building was created using shipping containers and serves as a showcase for Underbox Containers, a company providing containers for building homes or offices.

If he can prove that shipping containers are a viable option for housing, Hare said there are other applications that could also benefit the city. He said the shipping containers could be used for senior citizen housing in small, pocketbook communities. He explained these would be multiple houses for independent living located on shared land and the residents would help take care of each other.

And, Hare said, commercial buildings can also be built using shipping containers.

Hare is looking at getting a shipping container that has been used once before to transport goods, but people can also choose shipping containers that have had multiple trips. 

The soon-to-be home of Enchanted Sun Realty, and a showcase for Underbox Containers, a company building homes and commercial spaces from steel shipping containers.

He said the house will need to look attractive and the shipping container house could be covered with traditional siding.

Hare hopes to complete the project this year and is doing it with his own money. He said no city funds will be spent on the project.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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