Some call it a boondoggle. Others say it’s a good deal.
The perspective depends on whether you’re the seller or the buyer.
In August 2022, then Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order to close a gap in the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Yuma with shipping containers.
The wall lasted four months.
That's because the federal government sued the state and Ducey agreed to remove them. Now more than a year later, they’re being sold at auction for merely a third of the price.
Containers on discount
The historic town of Bisbee now owns more than a dozen pieces of Arizona’s makeshift border wall. The shipping containers are now being used as storage facilities.
The state of Arizona paid $6,750 a piece last year. The state’s loss became Bisbee’s gain.
"One 40-footer was $2,000, and for shipping, it was $731. They charged about $155 an hour for shipping," Matthew Gurney, the city of Bisbee public works director said. "With taxes, all that together, it was about $2,800 for one container."
Around 2,000 containers are now double-stacked and stored at a Tucson prison complex. They’re currently being auctioned off in lots of five.
"They are rusted, dented, they do have operable doors, a roof, floor and obviously walls," Megan Rose with the Arizona Department of Administration explained.
Eventually, the border wall pieces could become someone’s home.
Shipping containers on Grand Avenue have been repurposed into affordable housing. Now, state officials say most government agencies that bought them are using them as storage.
Affording housing solution?
It remains to be seen if individuals will use them for affordable living.
"To take a steel box and put it through the building code, there are a lot of things that have to happen," Brian Stark, co-founder of STEEL + SPARK said.
Local builder, STEEL + SPARK, has been turning shipping containers into housing in Phoenix for nearly a decade.
A village is their latest project, housing Phoenix’s homeless individuals.
Stark warns buyers that it’s not as simple as purchasing an inexpensive container at auction and then having it dropped off in your backyard.
"You'd hire an architect, and go to the city or county, then start the construction process," he explained.
State loses money on these containers
"The shipping containers we have are 40 feet and the starting price is $2,000," Rose said. "The winning bidder will need to provide transportation costs to pick up the shipping container and get it to their final destination."
As for the containers in Bisbee, they'll undergo a few modifications and will serve as giant closets. Bisbee officials say they’re happy with the price they paid.
"The cost for these shipping containers was probably about a third of the cost of what it would be if we just bought them from a vendor," Gurney said.
If the state auctions off the remaining 2,000 shipping containers it has for around $2,000 each, it could recover more than $4 million.
That amounts to around 2% of the total cost of the initial project.
The state of Arizona spent nearly $200 million to build and then remove the defunct border wall.