Are Seattle's iconic houseboats on the way out?
New rules could doom 'houseboats' while sparing 'floating homes.' The state argues that the waterfront is for public recreation, not private dwellings.
The days may be numbered for some of Seattle’s iconic floating abodes, like the one made famous as Tom Hanks’ home in "Sleepless in Seattle."
To comply with state law, the city is updating its rules for shorelines, including those for houseboats and floating homes. The rules under consideration could make about 150 of the city’s 600-plus floating dwellings illegal. That’s a problem for owners who bought their floating abodes with the expectation they were as permanent as houses.
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"In a worst-case scenario, (it) may leave me bankrupt and homeless," Stephen Bimson, who paid $250,000 for his 850-square-foot houseboat in 2011, told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "In a best-case scenario, it will significantly impact my entire life savings."
The dispute has been going on for several years, as Seattle has sought to comply with state rules that favor using the shoreline for public recreation, not for private homes. While some of the city’s floating dwellings are hooked up to sewer lines, others are not, meaning gray water goes into the lakes where they are moored.
While all the floating houses may look the same to us, the new rules may make a significant distinction between a houseboat – which in theory can move – and a floating home, which is basically a house built on a floating platform that can’t go anywhere. A Florida case over whether a vessel is a houseboat or a floating home is pending in the Supreme Court.
As the Post-Intelligencer explains, floating homes are regulated by city building and land-use codes and must be hooked up to a sewer line. These dwellings are likely to be allowed under the new rules.
But the houseboats, whose owners have declared them to be boats, not houses, don’t have to comply with building codes, even if they’re approaching McMansion size and are larger than would be allowed if they were floating homes. Plus, they aren’t hooked up to the sewer. About 150 of these dwellings could be declared illegal and forced to move.
The city is scheduled to present a new set of rules next week.
Some city officials have suggested giving all current water residents an amnesty while barring new floating homes, but the state vetoed that idea.
"A huge contingent of people don't want to see private people taking over public space," City Councilman Richard Conlin told The Seattle Times.
Boon docking has been around sense we lost Atlantis but the Chinese perfected it . Maybe Wal-mart could solve the problem. LOL ((*J*)).
i LOVE TO SEE THE HOUSEBOATS IN BOTH SAUSALITO AND LAKE UNION. THEY ARE DEFINITEY A TOURIST ATTACTION. I HOPE YOU WANT TOURISTS. WHY DON'T YOU HELP THE PEOPLE GET HOOKED UP TO THE SEWER LINES IF THEY NEED HELP? MARY (MORE THAN 30 YEARS ATTHE PORT OF SEATTLE).
1) They should require the houseboats to use sewer or composting toilet or move.
2) Grandfather existing houseboats if #1 is complied with
3) Condemn the homes of all lawmakers who agree with this legislation.
Public land, public shores all the same. This should never have been allowed in the first place and so now the State has said No.
This is no different than building a house in a state park and then no one says anything until much later. The land is still public, and now you and your house have to go. There is no argument because you never owned it.
Simple item really ... if the places already there meet the environmental regs. like all of us are subject to then leave them the hell alone. Those that don't either get online with REGULAR & REAL water/sewer regulations need to go.
Does governent ever stay out of private peoples lives ??
So - those there correctly are off limits ......no new ones and those not meeting normal codes have, say, 90 days to comply or go.
To simply clean them all out is primitive and government over reach once again. THATis the true issue here.
It is already against maritime law for anyone to discharge sewage near land and absolutely not one home does this. A vast majority of the pollution in the water comes from runoff originating from the vehicles and homes surrounding the lake. In order to clean things up the government should ban all vehicles, fertilizers, farms and animals, cleaners, etc. used within the watershed area. The most effective option would be to demolish all those buildings and roads near the water. Get rid of pets and cars, leave the land for the people! This would reduce pollution by 90% as opposed to the small amount contributed by a few people's dishwater or shower.
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.