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Durham non-profit organization aims to bring micro homes to region through pilot project

WATCH: A new pilot project in Oshawa is looking at converting shipping containers into homes, which organizers hope will help create affordable housing in the face of high rent and costs. Aaron Streck reports.

A new pilot project in Oshawa is aming to convert shipping containers into homes.

Organizers hope this will help create affordable housing at a time when many people are faced with high rent and home-purchasing costs.

“This unit has 320 square feet of livable space,” said Patti Bell, Durham Region Non-Profit Housing Corporation executive director.

It’s being called a micro home and it may not be large, but it has everything you need, from a full kitchen to a fully-accessible bathroom.

“We’ve incorporated storage to the design everywhere we could,” said Bell. “We’ve used multi-functional furniture; we’ve also put in some energy savings into this unit.

“One of the main features is the solar panels on the top of the roof and we’re saving 33 per cent of our energy cost.”

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Durham Region Non-Profit Housing Corporation has launched the project to show a potential solution to high rent and homelessness.

For now, nobody lives in it, but that could change if the pilot is adopted.

“One of the huge benefits of housing like this is we can mobilize it quickly,” said Bell.

“We could put small units on small land spaces and we could actually — in a few years, if they were no longer needed — we could transport them.”

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter, meanwhile, says he’s aware of the city’s lack of affordable housing.

“Well, I think we need to look for solutions and I think every idea’s on the table,” Carter said.

With the cost of micrhomes estimated at $50,000 to $80,000 each, he says this idea warrants consideration.

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“We can get them designed, built and placed a lot quicker than a traditional build, and I believe that it will be able to meet the needs of individuals that are not housed or under-housed or living on shelter grade at this particular time,” said Carter.

“You have thousands of people waiting for affordable housing,” said Robert Brglez, executive director of Cornerstone Community Association, which helps people in Durham Region move from homelessness to independent living.

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Brglez says the region is in the middle of a housing crisis, but he isn’t yet sold on the micro home idea being able to solve all the region’s housing issues.

“How do you get your most bang for your buck? Is it shipping containers or is [it] something else more feasible?” said Brglez.

“But as an idea, I think, let’s look at it.”

By next spring, the mayor hopes the land and partners will be in place, and the new type of housing will be on display.

The pilot project is expected to go for the next six to eight months before being moved to a site where it can be put to use.