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Front Page » Top Stories » Test project shipping container home almost ready

Test project shipping container home almost ready

Written by on December 24, 2019
Test project shipping container home almost ready

A test project to turn a shipping container into a tiny home on a small parcel in South Miami is near completion more than a year after Miami-Dade lawmakers narrowly gave it the OK.

The 480-square-foot container is on-site and on blocks on a corner lot that would otherwise be undevelopable had the county and city not made exceptions for the project.

It has glass doors, interior insulation and a wooden façade between two front-facing windows that overlook the street at 6180 SW 63rd Terr.

“I drove by it the other day, took a look at it,” said Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who sponsored the item approving the project late last year. “I’m not sure it’s 100%. It begs for a little shade and landscaping, maybe something to dress it up a bit.”

While that assessment is on the mark, it’s not for lack of effort to get things done quicker, said Danielle Blake, chief of public policy for the Miami Association of Realtors.

“This is a backed-up process,” she said. “The landscaping can’t be done until we lay the driveway, which can’t be done until the sewer lateral is laid, and we’ve been trying to get that connected with the county since July.”

Ms. Blake said that she expects the project to be finished next month. It could have ended sooner, she said, if not for unforeseen developmental roadblocks.

Connecting the home’s plumbing to the county sewer system hookup across the street is no easy task, she said; it requires tearing up and then fixing the roadway, which requires permits, work orders and disrupting neighbors and travelers through the area.

The problem, she said, is that the county tore up the road once already but not for that purpose.

“The county did the water connection. As I understand it, they also had to break through the street,” she said. “But the sewer lateral, which is also under the Water and Sewer Department, is done privately through a general contractor.”

On Nov. 8, 2018, county commissioners granted sale of the 3,200-square-foot lot, which they designated as surplus in 2015, to Miami Realtors for $10.

In exchange, the association agreed to take on the project – meant to demonstrate the feasibility of a broader container home program – and then sell it at-cost with a maximum price in accordance with the Infill Market Price of 80% of the area median income.

Esteban Bovo Jr., then the commission chairman, agreed to seek waivers of all county and city fees possible to lower costs.

Ms. Blake told county commissioners that total construction costs were $133,699, not counting another $37,000 in land costs.

Detractors of the project said it was wasted land that could be better developed in other ways and argued its price was exorbitant compared to similar projects elsewhere.

“I thought was a cartoon – $133,000 for a shed? I didn’t believe it,” said Joe Martinez, who joined Mr. Bovo, Rebeca Sosa, Javier Souto and current Commission Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson in voting against the project. “The cost, including the land, which we’re giving away here, is $180,000. [In Utah], it’s $115,000 [and it’s] a bigger place.”

But others, like Jean Monestime, a real estate businessman, defended the project’s scope and ambition.

“I thought we were going to applaud them for bringing this item forward and approve it with a unanimous vote, because I think this is daring,” he said, voting yes with Mr. Suarez, Daniella Levine Cava, Sally Heyman, Eileen Higgins, Barbara Jordan and Dennis Moss.

Jose “Pepe” Diaz was absent from the vote last year.

“As a prototype, we managed to convince – with a lot of help from Commissioner Monestime – that this is worth trying,” Mr. Suarez said last week.

The price is “not a good finance model” for widespread adoption, he said – but that isn’t the point.

“The idea is to evaluate this,” he said. “If it works, it deserves to be considered [and] could be a significant number of units countywide.”

Miami Realtors then-Chairman George Jalil told Mr. Suarez in an Aug. 10, 2018, letter that the association had received an $80,000 grant from the National Association of Realtors to build the home. The association, he added, would add to the funding.

Miami Realtors and the South Miami Community Redevelopment Agency also committed to provide the future buyers with down payment assistance on the home, built by Miami-based Cobo Construction and Little River Box Co., the developer behind the Charcoal Garden + Bar Grill container restaurant in Wynwood Yard.

Ms. Blake told commissioners at the time that 80% of the median income in South Miami was about $44,100. With the planned down payment assistance, she said, the monthly mortgage payments from the buyer would be roughly $1,132.

Miami Realtors also agreed to deliver to commissioners a report on the project, including details on what obstacles the association and developers encountered.

Naturally, she said, the sewer issue will make the list.

Ms. Blake told Miami Today that the $15,000 the association budgeted for the sewer lateral connection fell short of all three quotes it received from contractors since July: $48,000, $25,000 and, most recently, $19,000.

“That’s the one we’re going with,” she said. “Since South Miami doesn’t allow for patchwork, we have to resurface the entire street, adding another cost we didn’t see coming. And why are we duplicating services? It all falls under the same department. If you’re talking about affordability and what the barriers are, we’re paying twice to go through that street.”

That unexpected clog in the proverbial pipeline and other difficulties related to the project, she said, will inform future replication efforts.

“I’m really glad we did this, because a lot of it has nothing to do with containers,” she said. “People who do this day in and day out in construction know about these issues. We didn’t, so it’s great the county is looking at the project. We can highlight what some of those barriers are.”

9 Responses to Test project shipping container home almost ready

  1. DC

    December 25, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Eliminating a sewer hookup would have saved thousands of dollars and time. Surprised it wasn’t hooked up to a slow composting toilet, things that have been around for half a century. To make that work, you need to raise the “house” up off the ground (like many old Miami homes are via CBS blocks). That extra height allows “direct deposit” into a container that can be opened from the outside to collect the garden-ready compost. Here is just one example from Finland:

    • Lucio

      January 4, 2020 at 7:58 pm

      The solution is there, but politcs get in the way. on surprise there!

  2. A. Martin

    December 26, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    This is why it took 16 months to build a 30 foot bridge at Bird Road and SW 153 Avenue. The County delays everything and on top of that awards contractors multiple projects. So the contractor can’t proceed even when they County finally approves the work done because the workers are splitting time between projects.

  3. Charlie Moore

    December 26, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    This is one crazy idea is to live in a storage container home. Old shipping containers now serve as a part of a home or even the entire home for some people. They are strong, durable, cheap, eco-friendly and allow for modular designs.

    Now a days, containers have been used to build pop-up hotels, shopping malls, and some jaw-dropping homes as well.

  4. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    January 3, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    Kudos to Miami REALTORS and commissioners involved that recognize there is an “affordable housing” crisis in Miami-Dade County. This pilot program has identified obstacles and roadblocks that will make it easier for future projects. Honored and proud to be a Miami REALTOR!!


    January 4, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    SHIPPING CONTAINER HOMES ARE AN AWESOME IDEA, but why do they have to ruin it by making tiny homes? why do people believe that tiny houses are adorable? “little boxes” of different colors “all made out of ticky-tacky”
    If container homes are going to be build they should at least accomodate a family and 1000 sqft still a tiny home and they are thinking about doing them less than 500 sq ft?
    That’s just as insane as the housing crisis that we have here in this AWESOME MAGIC CITY.

  6. Elizabeth Cooper-Garcia

    January 5, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    The delays and cost overruns are typical of building in Miami-Dade County. The costs associated with constructing anything here is why homes cost so much. They could have installed a septic tank but it’s likely the lot was too small to accommodate the required drainfield. The additional restrictions by individual cities also poses obstacles to small builders, which is essentially what the association turned into by taking on this project, but kudos for trying something different. To help with the affordability problem, which is basically what this project was trying to do, cities and the county need to get together, get rid of those “unwanted lands” that the tax department is holding and start donating those for similar if not larger projects and work with, not against, the creative developer that is willing to put forth affordable homes for regular Miami families seeking homes under $300,000.

  7. Steven Ruggieri

    January 9, 2020 at 11:44 am

    $1,132 monthly mortgage for a 450 square “home?”

    How much heat does a metal box create in the Florida sun? Trees needed!

  8. Aceman

    January 30, 2020 at 10:05 pm

    It beats the purpose to pay $1200 + a month for such a tiny space — and this they call “affordable housing”? Not on my book. Why must luxury contain us? Why can we contained luxury? I will not be surprised if what is an awesome idea that can help with “homeownership”, in the end will benefit the rich greedy investors and city council boards.