January 12, 2018
January 12, 2018 Fifth & King


Habitat for Humanity to Convert Shipping Containers Into Homes for Affordable Housing in McKinney

For now, it’s just a sliver of land and an old abandoned house at the corner of Bumpas and Fitzhugh streets on McKinney’s east side.

But if all goes according to plan, town homes built from shipping containers will begin rising up within a year on the site.

Named The Cotton Groves, the community is a new stock of affordable housing planned for the northern Collin County suburb.

North Collin County Habitat for Humanity purchased the nearly three-acre plot on the city’s east side in November. Last month, McKinney City Council members unanimously approved plans for the 35-unit neighborhood development.

Shipping containers for homes isn’t a new idea, but it’s a first for the Collin County nonprofit. Habitat’s design advisory group, the JDL group, pitched the idea for the higher-density container home community because of their sturdiness, low-cost, quick-build and ability to house more people.

“Cost of living in McKinney is not low. It’s an expensive place to live,” McKinney Mayor George Fuller said. “We have a lot of industry, a lot of businesses that depend on a labor force that quite frankly can’t afford to live in the city.”

Each home will be made of four shipping containers to make-up a 1,280-square-foot home. The homes will feature three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a second-floor balcony and covered carport.

Habitat plans to sell the homes to people at 30 percent of their gross monthly income. Qualified applicants must have lived or worked in north Collin County for one year, currently be living in substandard housing and willing to contribute sweat equity to help build their home and others.

“The ultimate goal was to serve more families,” said Celeste H. Cox, CEO of the North Collin County Habitat for Humanity. Currently, the nonprofit has about 170 people on its waiting list.

"Cost of living in McKinney is not low. It’s an expensive place to live. We have a lot of industry, a lot of businesses that depend on a labor force that quite frankly can’t afford to live in the city."

The Honorable George C. Fuller, Mayor | City of McKinney

“We just can’t build fast enough to serve the need for housing in Collin County,” she said.

But there’s still a ways to go before it’s a viable community.

Habitat still needs to raise $4.5 million to fund the project and plans to launch a capital campaign in a few months. The McKinney Community Development Corporation is contributing roughly $331,000 toward building the homes.

And remember that aforementioned abandoned home on the property? It’s contaminated with asbestos and lead-based paint. Habitat has applied to the Environmental Protection Agency for remediation funds to clean-up the home and then demolish it.

Then infrastructure — water, sewer and roads — needs to be built. There are plans for a prototype home to be built next to Habitat’s office this spring to show off to donors and potential homeowners.

It’s unclear how much the homes will cost, since it depends on their appraisal. But Habitat owners won’t pay the full price. Currently, Habitat’s three-bedroom home values in North Collin County range from $120,000 to $130,000, Cox said.

In Collin County, the median home price in the second quarter of 2017 was more than $319,000 — nearly 50 percent higher than the nationwide price of a typical home, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“There’s just not a lot available in a price range families earning $20,000 to $40,000 a year can afford,” Cox said. “And the appraised values keep going up.”

Already, Cox said the nonprofit has heard from a church and private landowners asking Habitat to build additional container communities.

“It is a constant challenge for cities to keep affordable housing,” Cox said. “As each of these cities reach build out, the need for more affordable housing — and just more housing period — becomes more desperate because there’s less land to build on.”

In a Facebook post, McKinney residents weighed in on the project. Some praised the development’s innovativeness, but others called the homes ugly and questioned their safety.

“Everyone talks about how we want more restaurants. We want more this. We want more that,” Fuller said. “Well, we need workforce, and we need to be able to house that workforce.”

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