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Living in a tin can: Shipping container homes come to Kelowna

Image Credit: Honomobo
April 07, 2016 - 1:00 PM

KELOWNA - You’ve probably heard about the shipping container mania sweeping the globe, where everyone and their cousin has come up with a new use for the ubiquitous steel boxes.

Still, the most common use for shipping containers (besides actual shipping) is to convert them into some form of shelter and local company Honomobo is introducing their version of a container house to Kelowna with a "virtual tour" and launch party.

Touted on its website as "affordable, efficient living” and ideal for carriage houses, the biggest questions on the on the minds of Honomobo's Facebook followers seems to be “are they legal in Kelowna” and “how much?"

The company is playing coy — they will be at least $100,000 — promising all will be revealed at the launch party, which some 400 curious people have said they will attend.

As for legality, city planning manager Ryan Smith says the container homes have been certified under the B.C Building Code and are built out to the point where you can’t call really call them containers anymore.

“We won’t allow regular storage containers. But at some point, a shipping containier isn’t a shipping container any longer,” Smith says.

Smith says staff have met with Honomobo several times and recently approved the installation of the first Honomobo modular house for a property on Cadder Avenue.

According to the company’s website a $1,000 deposit can start the process that ends with one of Honomobo’s units delivered to the building lot of your choice.

Well, not exactly your choice. Like all buildings erected in Kelowna, your property must be properly zoned (RU6 for a carriage house) and you require a development permit from the city before you proceed.

City council loosened development requirements for carriage houses in 2011, giving the power to approve them at the staff level, Smith says, although they are still subject to a review of how the flat-topped design will fit into the neighbourhood.

“We will look at a neighbourhood and it may be a situation where it is too out of character for the neighbourhood. We won’t support something drastically out of character,” he says.

Smith doesn’t know the exact price points of Honomobo’s products, but says they aren’t drastically cheaper than a regular carriage house, once the cost of building a foundation and utility hookups is factored in.

“Where the advantage comes in, I guess, is the speed which they can be up and running,” Smith adds.

The unit's design and the construction materials used means most people won’t likely recognize them as former shipping containers, he says.

Certainly what the company’s promotional material shows —a sleek, flat-topped unit sitting on a concrete garage foundation — looks nothing like the banged-up graffiti-covered steel boxes you see on railcars and cargo ships.
While carriage houses remain contentious, at least in some parts of Kelowna, Smith says the city needs to encourage infill housing as a way to combat the city’s razor thin rental vacancy rate of about one per cent.

“We are trying to get new housing stock out there in affordable ways,” he says. “We’re excited to see the different ideas and we’re trying to be flexible enough to try them out. It’s a cool new idea, but if there proves to be issues, then we will move to regulate them.”

Honomobo’s launch party begins today, April 7, at 4 p.m. at Third Space Coffee, 1708 Dolphin Ave. in Kelowna.

Find past stories on Kelowna rental housing here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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