Could shipping containers help ease Arizona’s housing crisis?

Local company Spark + Steel built a shipping container housing project that’s on display in downtown Phoenix.
Steel + Spark is creating homes from shipping containers in Phoenix, hoping to solve the affordable housing crisis.
Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 11:14 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Arizona’s homeless population has grown by more than 20% in the last few years. That’s according to a recent federal report.

As local and federal housing officials scramble to find solutions, one Phoenix business thinks shipping containers may help. Thanks to funding from the Arizona Housing Department, Spark + Steel built a housing project out of shipping containers near 2nd Street and Roosevelt in downtown Phoenix.

Meet what’s called “Sparkbox.” They were developed by a Valley company called “Steel + Spark” using funding from the Arizona Department of Housing. The group is also partnering with the city of Phoenix.

State housing officials are hopeful this type of sustainable housing could serve as transitional housing for the homeless community.

The company says it could be an answer to multi-generational housing, like if you want the family to also live with you but have their own space.

These units are one bed and one bath and are solar-powered, meaning they don’t have to be connected to any utilities and don’t require any construction.

The toilet, called an incinerating toilet, is also designed to save about 2,000 gallons of water per year per person. Every 100 flushes have the environmental impact of emptying an ashtray. It’s not something that hurts the environment.

Sustainability and the ongoing water crisis were top of the mind of the designers, notably as these units are technically off the grid.

“A lot of people don’t understand what off-the-grid means. And what it means is that these sparkboxes do not need to be hooked up to electricity -- to APS or to SRP. They harness all of their energy from the sun and store it in lithium batteries. We partnered with Discover Battery, one of the leading safe lithium battery companies out of Canada,” explained co-owner Brian Stark. “And that gives us a system that will power your house for over a day, most likely two days depending on the use, and so that right there shows you quite a lot of freedom and shortens the timeline to produce it.”

The containers here will be on display through May. Visitors can stop by to check it out on Tuesdays through Sunday evenings. After that, they will be given to a nonprofit to help house the homeless community.