What makes a house a home?

The term “affordable housing” seems to be a bit of an enigma. Location, population, and building regulations are just some of the factors that can determine what the housing landscape will look like in a particular place.

DeKalb County, like many cities across the United States, is facing an affordable housing crisis. A quick read of a PowerPoint presentation designed by the DeKalb County’s Finance, Planning, Economic, Development and Community Services (PECS) committee published in 2022 reveals that home prices and interest rates are, on average, increasing while household income, on average, is decreasing.

Part of the solution to the problem—in my mind—is redefining what our community views as a home.

On a trip to New Zealand in 2015, I traveled to Christchurch, which was still recovering from devastating earthquakes that damaged many structures and houses. The city, an epicenter of the south island, used something I had never seen used as a dwelling before: large shipping containers. Not only were people living in them, but retail and restaurants were operating out of them, too.

Fast forward to 2023, long after I’d returned from my eye-opening trip on the other side of the world, to Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announcing the city’s first shipping container community with 40 units of affordable housing. The dwellings are small – less than 150 square feet – but each provides a kitchen area, a bathroom, a bed, and shelter for people who may otherwise have no roofs over their heads at all.

Innovation will be one of the key factors to solving the mounting problem of affordable housing; taking structures or objects that may not normally be used for a house and transforming them into a place to live also transforms the lives of the people who can finally afford a place to call home.

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