This Is Not a Home, It's a Terrarium For Humans

Jun 20 at 10am

Just when you thought housing options in San Francisco couldn’t get any more bizarre, this happens. Sentient Homes’ Google+ page describes its unique answer to the housing crisis as a “20' x 8' shipping container with standard side opening doors built into a condominium. Intended for young professionals looking to make early investments in housing without having to finalize their living location. The unit also provides a method for temporary in-fill development on unused city plots or areas where durability and security is a concern.” The Calvin and Hobbes book Scientific Progress Goes Boink comes to mind.

People have done some amazing things turning shipping containers into homes, but in most cases there’s a significant amount of customization. This is like putting a head of lettuce in a bowl and calling it a salad. One of the points made on the company’s site is that renters in San Francisco are used to living in small spaces. While that sounds good on paper, I have to say there’s a difference between sleeping in a 160 square foot room and living in a 160 square foot room.

My issue with this is not so much the container itself, but rather what it represents. It’s assuming that otherwise reasonable people have actually gotten to a point where living in a metal box in San Francisco is considered a viable alternative to living in a decent affordable home elsewhere. The site originally listed the selling price at $80,000. While that won’t buy you a house anywhere outside of Detroit, it wouldn’t be hard to come up with something better than a shipping container for that price.

The one concession I will make is the potential for disaster relief and low/zero income housing. If the modular smart homes are as mobile and adaptable as Sentient Homes claims, it would certainly be preferable to sleeping on a sidewalk. How that might come about in a realistic way is far too complex for me to speculate, but it feels more appropriate than young professionals in empty lots.

Photos via SENTIENT Homes

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