Housing advocate Arnold Stalk has packed his dreams into used shipping containers.
Stalk — the founder of the transitional housing organization Veterans Village, recently renamed Share Village — has long advocated converting shipping containers into modest homes to help solve Nevada’s affordable-housing challenges.
He recently cut the ribbon on a container-home development prototype in downtown Las Vegas that he says is a step forward in the city’s fight against homelessness.
“We have a huge demand for Section 8. The housing authority has a huge demand, thousands of people that are on waiting lists,” Stalk said.
He said the new shipping container homes are much more cost-effective than public housing projects. The larger container is eight feet wide by 40 feet wide and eight feet high. It costs about $37,000 to turn the container into a tiny home and the rent is $650 per month; however, the rent is being subsidized by federal housing vouchers, which means most renters won't pay more than $200 or $300.
Stalk admits the tiny homes are not for everyone.
“It’s a person that lives a minimalist lifestyle by that I mean they don’t need a closet that you walk into like we see in the tract houses. It’s like a cruise cabin,” he said.
Stalk has been working on turning shipping containers into homes for years but he has met with a lot of obstacles from building codes to zoning to not-in-my-backyard activism.
“There’s a lot of people that hear the word affordable housing they are in that category themselves and they just don’t want it. And I don’t blame them,” he said.
He said developers have dumped poorly constructed affordable housing in areas for decades.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, all kinds of people attended from local and state governments. Stalk said people on both sides of the aisle understand the affordable housing problem needs to be addressed.
“They know that there’s a chronic problem and we’re looking for solutions. This is just one solution of many things I think we ought to be doing in the building industry and the architectural community and in the philanthropy community,” he said.
The shipping containers at Veterans' Village downtown could be a model for the rest of the country.
Gabrielle Rapport has been working on using tiny homes as an affordable housing solution for a long time. She is the founder and executive director of Operation Tiny Home.
She said policies are changing that allow more tiny homes to be built.
“So, cities are adopting policy change that’s allowing for tiny homes to be used as a permanent housing solution,” Rapport said.
Rapport said when she heard about the container project she wanted to be part of it. Her organization has a veterans' program that not only helps vets find affordable tiny homes but teaches them to build cabinets and furniture to fit the homes.
That program came to Las Vegas for workshops to build items for the new shipping containers.
“The goal of that is really to kind of bring the community together and to really shine a national spotlight on organizations like Veteran’s Village Las Vegas and to support them in launching their programs,” she said.
Both Rapport and Stalk agree that more housing is really the key to solving the affordability and homelessness problem in the country.
“There is no state in this country where someone who is earning the minimum wage can afford the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment by working 40 hours a week,” Rapport said.
She said people are looking for alternatives, including tiny homes or tiny homes made with shipping containers.
For Stalk, the idea always comes back to supply and demand. There is too much demand for the supply of cheaper homes.
“My thing is: figure it out. To all these municipalities around the country that are trying to figure out how to solve the homeless problem is to build housing,” he said.
He believes a partnership between public and private - with the private sector leading the way - is the best way to address the problem.
Arnold Stalk, founder, Veterans Village/Share Village; Gabrielle Rapport, founder and executive director, Operation Tiny Home