Are Container Homes Legal in New York?

shipping container home

Container homes have gained popularity recently as a unique and sustainable option for housing. These homes are made using decommissioned shipping containers, repurposed, and outfitted with the necessary amenities to be used as a house. While they may not be suitable for everyone, shipping container homes can be an affordable and creative solution for those looking to downsize or make a smaller footprint.

At Alternative Housing Options, we’ve looked at the legality of specific types of homes in an article we wrote previously. However, we are finding many questions about whether container homes are legal in New York. Because it is unclear if this question targets New York State or New York City, we will dive into both in this article. 

Are container homes legal in New York State?

The answer is not straightforward, as it depends on where in the state you are planning to build your home. Some areas of New York may allow shipping container homes as secondary dwellings or accessory dwelling units (ADU), while others may not. For those unfamiliar with ADUs, think of the mother-in-law suites or one-bedroom apartments built in the backyard. You can also discover more about ADUs in our article

Challenges building container houses in New York

One of the main challenges with building a container home in New York is that the state has strict building codes and zoning laws that must be followed. These laws are in place to ensure that all buildings are safe and habitable and meet specific standards for quality and appearance.


To build a container house in New York, you must obtain the necessary building permits and meet all of the requirements set forth by your local building department.

This may include obtaining a site plan and architectural drawings and passing inspections to ensure that the home meets all of the necessary safety standards. This can’t be done ahead of time, or as a second thought, if you are considering building a shipping container house in New York, you’ll want to get through all the planning and permitting before you even break ground.

Most areas follow the International Building Codes; you can find the shipping container section here.

New York State charges fines for building without a permit. While it takes time to submit architectural plans and get them approved, getting caught without a permit can cost much more.

The violation of building without a permit in New York can be a penalty of up to 14 times the cost of filing a job. Additional penalties can be imposed by the Environmental Control Board (ECB). You may also pay legal representation to resolve violations related to “stop work orders” and issue “certificates of correction.” While each borough may have its own additions to the International Building Code, here are the codes for New York City

If you are considering building a container home in New York, it is essential to research and understand what is required in your area. This will involve consulting with your local building department and researching the zoning laws and building codes in your community.

Find great plans and a step-by-step guide to building your own shipping container home!

Advantages of building a container home

One advantage of container homes is that they are typically quicker and cheaper to build than traditional homes. This is because the containers are already manufactured and only need to be modified to be used as a house. This means that the construction process can be completed more quickly, which can benefit those looking to move in as soon as possible.

Another advantage of container houses is that they are highly customizable. These homes can be designed to meet your specific needs and preferences and can be outfitted with various amenities and features. This makes them a good option for those looking for a home tailored to their specific needs.

While building a container home in New York can be a challenging process, it can also be rewarding. These homes offer a unique and sustainable living option and can be an affordable alternative to traditional stick-built homes.

Container houses can be a legal and viable option for housing in some areas of New York State and in New York City. However, it is essential to research and understand the requirements and limitations of building a shipping container home in your local area. Each of the boroughs may have their own requirements. By following the necessary steps and obtaining the necessary permits and approvals, you can build a unique and sustainable home that meets your needs.

Featured Image by Freepik


Eva is a freelance copywriter specializing in all things real estate, B2B, PropTech, ReTech, CRETech. Owning rental property herself, Eva's love of real estate has turned into a passion for alternative housing options and educating people about the different types of housing available.

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