A new foundation: Upton woman to receive Habitat container home through pilot program

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By Kelly Cantrall

When Joann Priddy contemplates the new home that soon will be constructed for her, it is hard for her to imagine the amenities it will include.


“I wouldn’t know how it would feel to have electric heat,” Priddy said, sitting next to a wood stove that heats her home in Upton.

The thought of an indoor bathroom — instead of the outhouse that sits several feet away from her house in what was a snow-covered yard on a cold February afternoon — is what she is most looking forward to.

“It kind of thrilled me,” Priddy said.

The Home Repair program of Habitat for Humanity is building a new house for Priddy. She was searching for help with repairs when she contacted Habitat, but the organization decided to give her a new home. The structure is being used as a model and pilot for a new, sustainable way to build homes — converting old shipping containers into houses.

Priddy, 54, has lived in her home near the Hart County line for more than 30 years, after moving there as a child with her family. She now lives alone with help from her brother, Murl, who takes her to doctor’s appointments and ensures she has enough firewood stacked in the front room of the house. Two cats and an affectionate brown-and-white dog named Shiloh keep her company throughout the day.

The small, white house has bare wooden walls and low ceilings. It’s dimly lit and somewhat smoky from the wood stove. Debris from the wood gives her little reason to clean the floors, she said, as dirt quickly returns. Water constantly drips from the sink and refrigerator, she said.

She has no attachment to the house, but likes that it’s in remote, rural location. She wouldn’t want to leave her land, she said.

“It’s peace and quiet, nobody to bother you,” she said.

But “my house is not in too good of shape” she said, and she specifically wanted a bathroom added. That prompted her to apply for help from Habitat Home Repair.

Larry Mengel of Habitat Home Repair visited Priddy to determine the need for repairs, and soon saw the house needed much more than a bathroom.

“The place is just deplorable,” Mengel said.

Home Repair works solely on donations, so Mengel needed an affordable way to put Priddy into a new house. While he was searching for options, Kentucky Habitat was looking for a local office that was willing to test using a shipping container home. The state organization will pay for the project, now that Hardin County Habitat signed on to pilot it.

Local volunteer efforts will build the foundation and install a septic tank, while the shipping container will be converted into a house off-site and taken to Upton. The cost for the site work is about $10,000. The conversion of the home is another $10,000.

“It’s an awful lot of moving parts in this project,” Mengel said.

While shipping containers might not sound like they could make comfortable living quarters, they’ve been used in other parts of the country and overseas.

“They can make some very attractive structures,” he said.

Mengel has shown photos of other container structures to Priddy. She’s “tickled to death” about the idea of a new house.

Volunteers likely will begin laying the foundation in April. Those interested in volunteering or donating to the project can call Hardin County Habitat at 270-360-9900.

Priddy is ready for new surroundings, she said.

“I want something a little better in a house,” she said. “I get tired of looking at all of this.”

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at 270-505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.