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.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jan 11, 2013 1:54PM

Credit: City of SeattleThe 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.

 

 
45Comments
Jan 19, 2013 10:13PM
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Hook up to a sewer and deal with it.
Jan 19, 2013 6:53PM
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breaking news; "Paul Allen needs the water front area for a new project" StayTuned for more updates after the house boats are removed. 
Jan 19, 2013 6:50PM
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Has anybody ever read "Houseboats of Seattle - by Gibb "  they have screwed houseboaters in the past and the Bastards will do it again.
Jan 19, 2013 6:06PM
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Ahoy'

Boon docking has been around sense we lost Atlantis but the Chinese perfected it . Maybe Wal-mart could solve the problem. LOL ((*J*)).

Jan 19, 2013 5:52PM
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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). 

 

Jan 19, 2013 5:49PM
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Seattle will kick these homes out and then re-zone all the land commercial where they will make even more money that they can spend on bike lanes and other usless stuff.
Jan 19, 2013 4:07PM
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This is so stupid:
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.

Jan 19, 2013 1:28PM
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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. 

Jan 19, 2013 12:24PM
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I don't think putting the gray water into the lake is good for the public, therefore, the owners should have to hook up to the sewer lines or move. Also, if they are on PUBLIC space, how were they allowed to live there in the first place? If it was allowed, they should be allowed to grandfather them in, again, so long as they hook up to sewer lines so they do not damage the public lake or other waterway.
Jan 19, 2013 12:06PM
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Intl-Wayne - The Government  IS staying out of people's lives on this issue.  This issue is whether of not the areas where the houses are docked belong to just one person, OR if the general population should be allowed to access those areas.  Basically, as it is now, a very few people are taking public spaces for themselves and not letting many many others access the space.  

Why should they be able to do that?
Jan 19, 2013 10:50AM
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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.  

Jan 19, 2013 10:15AM
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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.

Jan 19, 2013 9:43AM
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hire a boat builder to attach a bow and stern to your house.  Problem solved. + you get a place for the gas grill and a few chairs
Jan 19, 2013 9:33AM
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if you are so worried about losing your investment, don't invest in something with such inherent risk. I would suppose that most of the people affected by this have been keenly aware they are walking a fine line for quite some time.
Jan 19, 2013 9:18AM
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I the famous words of conservatives in the 1960's " Love it or Leave it" listen to you own words!!!
Jan 19, 2013 9:15AM
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Mixologist, its time for your party to be DISMANTLED.  I know misery love company, but why are you all trying to destroy our Nation?
Jan 19, 2013 8:56AM
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First off why went there water and waste remove systems in place before the boat homes were built.  Our military ships and boats when docking al are tied into those systems at there time of docking.  If those people pay water and sewer fees then the city is responsible to provide those services if it is private property then the owner of the property is responsible.
Jan 19, 2013 8:37AM
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More out of control guv'mint encroachment on our freedoms.  

However, this is Seattle, a liberal bastion who always want guv'mint to fight their battles, is now the target.  How does it feel to have the tables turned, libiots?

Wait til this guv'mint intrusion creeps down into Nancy Pelosi's and Bab's Boxer's districts in San Francisco and Sausalito - I can hardly wait for the howls of outrage from those leftist libiots who think their representatives are going to side with them.

Maybe by getting a dose of their own medicine, they'll finally wake up and see the problems of an overreaching, overbearing and out-of-control guv'mint.

Probably not.  They're leftist libiots for a reason.
Jan 19, 2013 8:30AM
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The owners of the "houseboats" should be required to  either;  (1) prove it is a "boat" by  taking it for a spin around Lake Union every 3 months, or (2) get it hooked up to the sewer.  Discharging greywater into Lake Union from a "boat" which serves as a residence and never moves, should not be allowed.  
Jan 19, 2013 7:47AM
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It's not the first time legislation has been created, amended and used to grab land and it won't be the last. 

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