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Eastpointe City Council votes down container homes

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 20, 2020

 The proposed homes, as seen in this concept art, would have been approximately 600 square feet in size and would have used recycled cargo containers as the key element of their building material.

The proposed homes, as seen in this concept art, would have been approximately 600 square feet in size and would have used recycled cargo containers as the key element of their building material.

Image provided by the Ford Foundation

EASTPOINTE — The Eastpointe City Council voted 3-2 against a proposed plan to work with Habitat for Humanity to build two new, small homes from shipping containers for low-income families in the city.

The two homes would have used the storage containers as their core building material and would have been about 600 square feet in size. Council members Sarah Lucido, Harvey Curley and Rob Baker voted against allowing the project to move forward, and Councilman Cardi DeMonaco and Mayor Monique Owens voted to approve it.

“We voted at our last City Council meeting (on March 3) to not go forward with the Ford (Foundation) and Habitat for Humanity project for container homes,” DeMonaco explained. “The Ford (Foundation) was prepared to bring a $100,000 grant forward for the program, and then Habitat for Humanity was going to find two families for the two homes we were considering putting in Eastpointe.”

DeMonaco said he supported the measure because he wanted to put what are currently two vacant lots in the city to productive use.

“I wanted to support it because these two properties were both fire damaged and then demolished, so they are now vacant lots,” he said. “I think it would be great to put two brand-new homes on those properties, and then (the residents there) would be taxpaying citizens.”

Lucido said that while she was interested in the project, she voted against the measure because of the response she was hearing from residents.

“The reason I chose to vote no on the container home project was because of an overwhelming response from residents in the city who were against it,” she said. “I thought the project itself was probably a very creative idea and would have been a nice, new concept for the city of Eastpointe. Ultimately, the residents spoke and said they were not ready for the change.”

Lucido said those who opposed the container homes often cited the small size and the fact that they wouldn’t fit in with the surrounding homes as reasons not to move forward with the plan.

“Most of the residents were concerned about the size of the container homes and how after the newness of the container homes wore off, the value of these homes would be less than the value of the other homes in those neighborhoods,” she said.

DeMonaco believes some residents may not have been clear on some of the facts of the matter.

“I think something was lost in translation with some people, because they thought Habitat for Humanity property owners don’t pay taxes, even though they do,” he said. “They just happen to be low to moderate income because that’s who Habitat for Humanity helps.”

As to whether the homes would fit in or not, DeMonaco said he considered that as a natural part of change and civic improvement.

“There were all brick homes (in the city) at first, and then (vinyl) siding homes came in, and I think this would just be another style of homes,” he remarked. “I think if it’s done properly, which it looked like it would have been, it would look nice and not just look like a container that was put down on the property.”

He didn’t know of any similar programs the city might consider in the future but added that he would be open to explore any such ideas.

Lucido, too, said she would be interested in exploring any similar projects in the future.

“I think all of us on the council are trying to find new ways to help the city of Eastpointe,” Lucido said. “We have sold many homes to Habitat for Humanity in the past, which helped others become homeowners. The container home project itself would have helped a couple of people become homeowners, but I think there are still plenty of homes out there in our city that we can still make available to those same people.”

She also expressed her gratitude to the Ford Foundation and Habitat for Humanity for bringing the proposal forward and working with the Eastpointe community.

“I would like to thank the Ford Foundation and Habitat for Humanity for all of their hard work and coming to our meetings to answer questions,” said Lucido. “I was glad they made it possible for Eastpointe to at least explore this idea.”