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Charlotte designer proposes housing solution similar to shipping containers

Jon Kavajian doesn't think shipping containers are a viable solution to Charlotte's affordable housing crisis, but his alternative is receiving initial support.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With the pandemic renewing a push for the City of Charlotte to rely on outside-the-box solutions to address its affordable housing crisis, a local designer's idea has received initial support from city officials, including the mayor.

Jon Kavajian doesn't think shipping containers are the solution, but does think cities like Nashville are on to something and is pitching a similar idea.

"What I believe is a more effective solution are units that are highly finished to begin with and essentially arrive on site, are placed and plugged in and good to go," he said. "Exact sizing to conform to shipping standards, so that these modules can be transported anywhere on the planet."

After watching a Charlotte Journalism Collaborative story about a shipping container apartment complex in Nashville and hearing renewed energy from a city council member and the mayor about the concept, Kavajian emailed his proposal to Mayor Vi Lyles, Council Member Renee Perkins Johnson and Housing Task Force Member T. Anthony Lindsey.

"They've all responded enthusiastically," Kavajian said.

RELATED: City leaders support shipping containers, other affordable housing solutions

His idea includes creating a non-profit to provide transportable live or work pods and compact housing that would be flat packed and easily assembled. Kavajian said those products could help, among others, seniors, low income and middle class earners and people temporarily in need of housing.

Emails from each official show an interest in discussing the idea further.

"I find agreement with both your premise and your solutions..." Mayor Lyles wrote in an email to Kavajian. "...I grew up in a house the size of a compact house with 5 brothers - 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. So I know the quality of life isn't defined by the size of your home. We have to figure this out. "

After receiving Kavajian's proposal, Johnson urged him to share input about "barriers to this construction approach or suggestions that could make this vision a reality" with Lindsey.

"Having personally been an advocate for safe, decent, affordable housing for all over the last 25 years of work in real estate, I find no substantive disagreement with you any of your thoughts," Lindsey wrote. "Our challenge is how to structure, finance and implement a plan that produces a scalable and sustainable environment that provides for the continuum of housing and supportive services that we all agree is the goal; starting from where we stand today. I certainly appreciate your offer of assistance and as the lead on my task under the Housing Community Recovery Task Force, I will relay (sic) on your contribution as this process unfolds. I reviewed your website and trust that you can provide value to my efforts."


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