In Amsterdam, hundreds of houseboats line the city’s canals and living on a houseboat is simply considered an affordable way to live in the center of the city. While Amsterdam may be synonymous with houseboats, houseboats are also popular in cities around the world. From London’s Little Venice to waterfront neighborhoods in Vancouver, Los Angeles and Sydney, one can find burgeoning communities. So why doesn’t New York—with its 578 miles of coastline—have a thriving houseboat community too?
While it is impossible to know for certain how many New Yorkers live on their boats year-round, recent estimates for Manhattan suggest that year-round houseboat residents or “liveaboards” may now number fewer than 50. Limited year-round docking space and a general reluctance on the part of the city to encourage houseboat living are largely to account for the fact that New York reports far fewer liveaboards than many smaller cities. Regina Jordan and Ed Bacon, long-time residents at Pier 79 on the Upper West Side, recently told the West Side Rag, “We used to have about 104 year-rounders, now it’s down to 33 boats.” The couple also revealed that they pay less than $1000 per month in docking fees to live in the neighborhood.