The Real Deal New York

California developer might use shipping containers for
low-income housing

Proposal includes 200 micro-units in Santa Clara, Calif.
December 26, 2016 10:00AM

John Sobrato

California developer John Sobrato spent decades building offices for Silicon Valley tech giants. These days the billionaire businessman wants to build micro-apartments for homeless and low-income renters using repurposed shipping containers.

Sobrato — who has promised to give away his $5.8 billion fortune — is looking to build 200 micro-apartments in Santa Clara, Calif., on a 2.5-acre city-owned plot. His plan includes 160- and 240-square-foot units equipped with a kitchenette and bathroom, according to Bloomberg.

Sobrato asked to lease the site, which currently houses a car dealership, for 57 years for $1 a year. In exchange, his company would build and own the apartments — to be called Innovation Place — but lease them back to Santa Clara County to manage.

“Instead of sleeping in a pup tent or under an overpass, Santa Clara homeless folks will have a clean, dignified, safe place to call home,” Sobrato said during a recent City Council meeting, where lawmakers granted his request to to lease the property.

Housing advocates have turned to tiny homes as a possible way to provide affordable housing to homeless or low-income renters. San Francisco-based developer Panoramic Interests has backed a plan similar to Sobrato’s, which would use steel containers as stackable pod apartments. [Bloomberg] — E.B. Solomont