floathomeOver the past 100 years, port cities such as New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver and Hong Kong have turned into a mass of urban sprawl.  From humble beginnings, these cities have grown into densely populated urban centers and the resulting scarcity of available land has caused an explosion in real estate values.  While scientists, politicians and researchers work toward the preservation of farmland and conservation of wildlife habitats, a curious trend has now started to take shape.  Where and how are the future generations are going to live on a planet that is 75% water?  Could houseboats be the answer?

Houseboats (also known as Floating Homes)

I went for a bike ride with my daughter this past weekend and we discovered a small marina along the banks of the Fraser River.  To our surprise, this marina had no boats, but rather a small community of approximately 25 houseboats.  We ventured onto the dock to get a closer look.  I have heard of manmade islands being built in the Far East, but seeing a street's worth of floating houses took me by surprise.  As we passed by one of the residents, we struck up a conversation and I was able to understand a little more about their small enclave.  It seems that most of the residents are aligned with their views on environmental sustainability and minimizing their carbon footprint.  These homes are intended to be permanent, however they can be towed to other marinas.  The residents pay a moorage fee to the owner of the marina, but own their houses.  Bank financing is available for these types of homes if the home owner is able to structure a 20 year lease with the marina owner.  

Intrigued, I wanted to do my own research on the environmental angle.  It appears that these structures can be used at sea, on rivers or in lakes.  The idea of floating homes is growing in popularity and various manufacturers are now starting to offer a number of different home designs (ie think of a pre-fab home on a barge platform).  Ideally these floating houses will not further stress to our already burdened environment, however the homes I saw were using municipal utilities such as sewer and electricity (although my daughter observed that lawn maintenance would be easy!). I can't help but wonder if this is a niche concept or if the idea will become more mainstream as land prices continue their upward trend.  If this does catch on, this could become a whole new segment for realtors and builders.  

If you have thought about buying a houseboat, or if you live on one, I would be curious to hear how it compares to life on land.  Can you have pets, do you feel the house moving, and how do you dispose of your waste?  Would it be too wavy to play billiards?  Please leave your comments in the box below.