Even As Temporary Housing, Shipping Containers Can Fail To Do The Job

An end view into the interior of a lone shipping container home
from the oak trees photo by Nicolás Boullosa is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Temporary housing” has become a growing industry. It started when the UK government gave local councils a “duty to accommodate” people who were homeless. As the number of households grew, councils developed all kinds of strategies to provide temporary housing.1 Vicky Spratt at I relates a cautionary tale about counting shipping containers among the solutions.

Shipping containers aren’t big, even when you bolt a few together. Families are managing in small spaces that don’t meet the country’s occupancy standards. To say that lockdown was challenging could be one of the biggest understatements of COVID-19.

Then there are health concerns, which include mould and ventilation. The temporary housing is also very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.

And then there’s the meaning of “temporary.” It’s one thing to be thinking about living with crowding and mould for months. It’s another thing altogether when that stretches to years and there’s no prospect that it will end.

How does this square with stories of living in tiny homes? For years now, shipping containers have been a darling of “tiny home living,” a lifestyle that its proponents suggest is a bright future for all.2 It’s true that some people live in very tiny spaces, as numerous news items and videos on the web can attest. It’s also important to remember that countries have occupancy standards and undercutting them has consequences.

And what about that latest darling of the affordable housing solution: modular construction? It offers speed. It also offers quality control. From the stories that I has collected, the offer isn’t enough: quality control is essential.

See Vicky Spratt’s full investigation in I: Shipping container Britain: Growing number of homeless families are being housed in container-style homes


  1. If you’re interested, here are some of the other strategies: Protocol Breach Undermines Support To Families Experiencing Homelessness, Green Social Housing – New Source Of Pride For Local Councils, Social Housing — Who Says It’s Affordable? and Survivors Of Domestic Violence Win The First Battle In Their Fight To Stay Local
  2. Try: Steel Yourself For A Vision Of Shipping Container Homes