Why Student Container Villages are Actually Bad for Cities

Recently I came across another story of a new student container village. I see these articles now and then, and it’s always the same story: “The city of [fill in a random student town] is struggling with housing shortage, partly due to the high numbers of students. They came up with an innovative approach: they built a village for students made of containers. You won’t believe how beautiful these new apartments are!”.

Student container village. Picture by: Willem Velthoven, licensed under Creative Commons.

I’m sure every city would like to solve its housing shortage by using such an easy, cheap and green solution. It’s a win-win situation, isn’t it? Well, student container villages have a couple of major flaws that the media tend to ignore:

  • Homogeneous - Student apartments might be sometimes loud and inconvenient for neighbors, but students are real people and they should live in real neighborhoods. Living in normal neighborhoods is good for students, because they get to interact with a variety of residents. It is also good for neighborhoods, especially weaker ones, since they get some fresh blood. Student villages are, de facto, segregated. Basically, only young academics can live there.
  • Small, yet not in the city center - More and more people, especially the millennials (among them students), choose to live in small apartments in city centers. I’m sure many of them would like to live in more spacious, apartments but they find this trade-off worthwhile. They don’t have a big living room, but they can meet with friends at the the café across the street. They don’t have a desk, but they can sit in the neighborhood’s library. However, most of the student villages I’ve heard of are built at the outskirts of cities. These villages don’t have the advantages of the city center, but the apartments are still small.

Cities should not give up on the container apartment idea , but they should stop choosing the easy way of implementing the concept. Since containers are so cheap and modifiable, they can be used to fill up empty and unused spaces in city centers and densify inner cities. Sending students to live outside the city in little boxes might be cheap, but it won’t create better cities.


Written by Lior Steinberg. Follow him on Twitter and .