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A new idea for affordable housing: shipping containers

April 13th, 2010 · 31 Comments

For those who haven’t spotted it, The Tyee and Monte Paulsen have an interesting series starting on affordable housing. The series looks at how shipping containers, which are ubiquitous around the world, can be used for housing.

I admire them for taking on this topic. And I’ve seen shipping containers used ingeniously in a few places I’ve visited. It seems to me I saw stores operating out of them in Kabul and, at the other end of the universe in all ways, I also visited an organic farm in Maui where the owners had turned a shipping container into their office. (They’d also turned a garden hose into an outdoor shower for our benefit, but that’s another story.)

However, I have to say that in the way of the great Media Chicken Shunning that is going on in this city, I currently am having strong doubts about whether Vancouver can accept any idea that strays outside the parameters of the mediocre and middle of the road that seems to prevail here. I’ve always known the city was parochial and small-minded, but that’s been brought home forcefully in the last couple of weeks, as all the pundits of the land have thundered on about the way global disaster will come to Vancouver if it allows urban chickens.

I’m frankly completely baffled by this reaction. I could understand their scorn if the Vision council had decided to make decisions by consulting a ouija board or if it had mandated that all new housing development include a space for housing pigs and donkeys at the basement level, in order to promote food security.

But we’re talking about allowing urban chickens — a trend that has been growing in North America for at least the last decade. If anyone wanted to do even the most minimal research, they would see that hundreds of cities have made the move to allowing people to keep small numbers of chickens and that it’s hardly a radical concept. Susan Orlean in the New Yorker wrote about what a trend it is, definitive proof that, far from being some new age weirdo fad, it’s a yuppie as a Starbucks non-fat, no-whip moccachino.

So … shipping containers as housing? Nice try, but I can well imagine what the great minds around here would have to say.

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