Stealth Housing

stealth housing

Stealth Housing

by William Edward Summers

There is always a need for housing, however during hard times, such as are currently affecting  many countries, obtaining a roof overhead is becoming increasingly challenging. The alarming inflation in house prices not only creates difficulties for those seeking to buy, but is also a budget buster for renters. In this situation, as in so many others, creative thinking will help those in need of adequate shelter to find viable solutions. A place to live can be many types of places, and situations.

Stealth, or brown bag housing, is a situation where an existing non-residential building is re-purposed into shelter, without substantially modifying the exterior. Often the main requirement is a full bathroom, and at least an ad hoc kitchenette for sheds, garages, or offices to be useful as homes. In fact, one way to obtain immediate rental income is to add a full bath to any structure.

In climates with cold winters, insulation and a good heat source, such as a wood burning stove, is essential. There are small wood stoves that that give off adequate heat for a tiny space, and if they have a flat top, the stove will have the added benefit of being a place for a tea kettle.

In a converted shed, or garage, insulation and a little work will be needed. However insulation comes in rolls, pre-sized to fit between the standard 16″ on center studs, and can be easily installed with a heavy duty staple gun. Minor electrical work, and a carpet to cover the concrete floor will help finish off the space.

Personally, I like sheds, and fondly remember the shed we had in our rear yard, back home. We had inherited our house from my great Aunt who lived there around the turn of the last century, before the days of indoor plumbing. We still had her old, long unused, outhouse, chicken coop, hand pump, and the old shed that once been a single car garage, and shop. That shed was the place I would go to think and daydream. It was a wonderful place. Perhaps, because of those memories, I think that sheds offer an easy, and romantic, solution to a need for shelter.

tiny green house

Another unconventional space is a converted shipping container. This could offer the ultimate solution for international portability, all that is needed is a place to park it. The website, escapeartist.com has an excellent article about how to convert a shipping container for residential use:

http://www.escapeartist.com/Nomadic_Housing/Container/

Finally, another type of “brown bag” solution is the conversion of commercial space into residential. Years ago, after the divorce from my first wife, I lived for a year in a converted store front near “People’s Park” in Berkeley, California. Outside it looked like a store, with the windows obscured. I used a large sheet of raw, painter’s canvas, to cover the window, which created a soothing quality of light, when the sun shone through. It had a full bathroom, and kitchen, high ceilings and was very quiet, and convenient. All this for a fraction of what apartments so near the campus would have cost.

What can be used as a home is limited only by the imagination. Such places as service station shops, school buses, and retail loft storage areas, are among the many places that have been converted to homes. During hard times, creatively thinking about where you can live, will help keep a roof overhead.

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