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Why do the affluent love container homes?

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Developed as an affordable housing option, the container home is a trend originating in Australia that many thought would provide a solution to the housing crisis our nation faces. However, rather than being regularly implemented in low-income areas, the trend seems to have gained more traction in the affluent market that makes use of the container to create multi-million rand examples of innovative architecture instead of affordable housing. The question is, why?

“The reality is that while the container itself is far more affordable than the traditional bricks and mortar building methods, purchasing vacant land – particularly in areas where regulations allow container homes to be erected – is still a costly and somewhat complicated process,” said Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

Because this is a relatively new trend, zoning laws have yet to catch up, which makes the process of acquiring planning approval a tricky task. According to Goslett, even if a person is able to find suitable vacant land, acquiring the appropriate financing can be an equally frustrating task.

“Most banks are reluctant to provide financing on vacant land, as they view it as a high-risk investment,” he said. “As a result, the best deal a buyer can usually secure is a 60% bond. The rest will have to be sourced from their own savings, or by taking out additional credit elsewhere (which would increase the likelihood that the bank will deny the home loan application). This explains why the trend is only getting picked up by the middle- to higher-income sector rather than by low-income buyers.”

Standard Bank is willing to grant up to 80% loan to value on vacant land

While the banks continue to prove this housing type’s biggest linchpin, the consumer demand exists.

“We have seen this over the past three months during which time we promoted container housing company, Contabode’s various housing options,” said David Steynberg, director of HomeTimes. “One post in particular was viewed by more than 150,000 people on Facebook, clicked on almost 42,000 times, received more than 3,000 reactions, including 900 comments and 700 shares. This was achieved with a very small promotional budget of R100! All this proves is that the consumer demand exists. The biggest challenge is obtaining finance from traditional mortgage providers.

“From our analysis of the people who interacted with the post, it’s clear that people from just about every walk of life, and income bracket, are keenly interested in container housing. It’s a pity the banks are not coming to the party quickly enough. The one that does will enjoy first-mover advantage.”


David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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