Metal Works

[Windy Court]

BOISE - These days we see metal cargo containers almost everywhere. Atop 18-wheelers, rail cars, cargo ships and, on occasion, in a residential driveway where a family's packing-up to move to the next city they'll call home.

We see them, but probably don't think much about them. Unless you're in the affordable housing business in which, you can be sure, they'll more and more be on your mind. Understand why with a visit to Old Horseshoe Bend Road in northwest Boise, Idaho.

There you'll find Windy Court, a community being developed by LEAP Charities. ( The non-profit was established more than a decade ago by a local real estate agent because "all people deserve an affordable home" but saw "vulnerable populations unable to access stable, affordable homes."

LEAP Charities probably is best known for its Welcome Housing program that offers three single-family dwellings as temporary housing to newly arrived refugee families to give them a chance to settle in, get used to a new country and find an apartment. So far, it's served more than 180 guests. Its Yes You Can program has helped another 20 low-income families overcome credit, income or language barriers to homeownership. And its LEAP ROC - or Resident-Owned Communities - project helps owners of manufactured homes to become owners of the land on which their home is sited.

With an already packed agenda, LEAP Charities has launched a new line-of-business, not just providing, but now building affordable housing. Partnering with the Idaho Housing & Finance Association and with funding from HUD's National Housing Trust Fund, it's developing Windy Court, on a parcel donated by Ron and Cay Marquart and named after Cay's father whose nickname was "Windy."

 On June 1st the general public will have a chance to tour one of the four Windy Court homes that will welcome their occupants the following week. The homes are and built in by IndieDwell, a small firm of about 40 employees with a factory in nearby Caldwell. Its output, says IndieDwell CEO Scott Flynn, ( are "sturdy, well-built home."

But most definitely not the white clapboard house your grandparents owned. No bricks. No sticks. Just metal and lots of it, inside and out, exactly what you'd expect for a house built of converted cargo containers. "Yucky," you think. But think again.

Converted in just 28 days IndieDwell homes are built, sited and up-and-running faster than traditional houses. That cuts production costs which, in turn, lowers the price-point that LEAP Charities must hit in setting rents. Even better, over 40 years there will be less maintenance than for a traditional house, cutting costs even more.

Simply put, Windy Court families will get more house for less. Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a washer-and-dryer, refrigerator microwave and dishwasher all in 960 square-feet. Thanks to solar panels on the roof, the houses will have net zero footprint.

And all for just $843 a month including utilities. That's $171 or almost 17 percent lower than the $1,104 per month - utilities extra, by the way - average for apartment rentals in Boise reported by Rent Café ( for May, 2019 Good news in Boise, the nation's fastest-growing metro area in the U.S. in 2018 ( that, no surprise, is experiencing an affordable housing crisis.

Which is why, explains LEAP Charities executive director Bart Cochran, they're serving families at or below 30 percent of Boise average median income, especially those with a member who's elderly or disabled. And explains why when lease-up began ( LEAP Charities got six times more applications than it has units to rent.

"When people walk in" to tour a unit, Cochran comments, "it's fun to watch their faces and it's just a bit of surprise because they say like, "Wow, this is a shipping container?" They might also be just as surprised that they were looking at what could be the future of affordable housing.


Content Archived: February 1, 2021