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PARK CITY — Affordable housing is a nationwide problem that is especially challenging in resort towns like Park City. Housing thousands of seasonal and full-time workers is a real problem for the community. But, Blake Christian’s vision of a shipping container could be part of the solution.
“Container living isn’t as constraining as you would think,” said Christian, founder of Park City Base Camp, a company hoping to lease 45-foot containers made into livable spaces.
He showed KSL his prototype which is sitting behind the Utah Film Studios. When Christian sees a shipping container, he envisions affordable, functional workforce housing.
“They’re movable, they’re extremely green, and they’re cost-effective,“ he said.
At 320 square feet, the design he does houses four people.
“We tried to use every little nook and cranny for space,” he said.
He hopes to lease dozens to the ski resorts in Park City or housing companies.
Representatives from the ski resorts, the city, and the chamber of commerce have toured it this week.
“When I moved to Park City, every newspaper I read, the lead story was workforce housing,” he said, and the affordable housing challenges did not seem to be getting any easier.
Christian splits time between Utah and Long Beach, California, where his office overlooks the shipping port.
“I see a million containers a day out there,” he said.
That’s when the idea came to him, and he put his plan into motion.
“It’s actually pretty spacious,” he said. “With the use of windows and lighting, it’s actually pretty comfortable. I would definitely live it.”
He partnered with Roi Maufas, of Gorilla Designs, to build the prototype.
“I’ve been designing with shipping containers for 12 years now,” said Maufas. “We really need to all work together to find a solution (to the affordable housing crisis).”
Before he met Christian, Maufas was adapting shipping containers for disaster relief. Now, he’s excited about making headway on the affordable housing issue.
“To start the conversation, I’m not trying to force anybody’s hand. I want to say, ‘Hey, here are some possibilities. We can do a lot with a little bit of space.’”
The container on display is designed for living off the grid. But it can be adapted for hook ups. It has solar power.
“We can produce over 7,000 watts from this, which will heat a 4,000 square-foot house. So we have no shortage of power in this thing,” said Christian.
The water and sewer system needs service weekly. The container has a composting biodegradable toilet that is very high tech.
“It basically breaks everything down into inert matter in a day or two,” said Christian.
The container is well-insulated, comfortable, and quiet inside. The finish and furnishings in this container are quite nice, suitable for a prototype.
Christian tells me it was an expensive job. But, he expects to cut costs when they start mass producing the container homes, and get the price down to $100,000 each. But, he says the plan is to lease them in groups, not necessarily sell them individually.
Scott Loomis runs a nonprofit that helps more than 5,000 seasonal and full-time workers find housing each year.
“We have a real crisis,” he said. “Even now, it’s getting more and more difficult.“
Rental prices continue to soar in the resort town. Many apartments and homes that were once leased to workers are now rented out to tourist at a higher price, he said.
Loomis likes the container concept as part of a housing solution. But, there are challenges.
“The biggest problem is: where do you put it? If they can mass-produce it into something quick, then I think it has a lot of possibilities.”
Land is expensive, and Christian is talking with the city and the county about zoning that would allow for the container homes. So, there’s a lot of work to be done before a collection of container homes could become a reality anywhere in Park City.
For now, members of the community can get a look at the shipping container home. The shipping container is parked behind the Utah film studios building. They’re having an open house from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every evening next week.
“I was tired of talking about the concept, and decided let’s build the thing,” said Christian.