The Georgia Straight


- By Carlito Pablo

The B.C. government is discouragi­ng new communitie­s of float homes, but that hasn’t dimmed the passions of those who love them.

Doug Taylor swears by the view from his home. “Oh, my goodness,” Taylor says about the Vancouver skyline, especially at night. “It’s just beautiful.” Taylor lives on a float home on Burrard Inlet with his wife, Jewel, in North Vancouver.

Moreover, Taylor works as a realtor, and his listings include float homes.

As someone who has lived in one since 2012, Taylor can tell clients from personal experience about the joys of living on the water.

Taylor’s float home is at the Creek Marina and Boatyard. The Squamish Nation owns the marina, and the float-home village was establishe­d in 2010.

The village is one of a few in B.C.

In a separate interview, Kelly McCloskey noted that developing new ones hasn’t been easy. McCloskey is a resident at Ladner Reach Marina and the president of the Floating Home Associatio­n of B.C. (FHABC).

He said that the B.C. government has a long-standing policy of not encouragin­g new communitie­s. “Their official policy is no new floating-home community developmen­ts,” McCloskey told the Straight by phone.

He explained that this is a huge hurdle because the B.C. government owns most of the province’s foreshore at streams, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Foreshore areas consist of the land between low and high water.

“We’ve approached the government and asked them to revisit and revise that policy because today’s floating-home communitie­s are very vibrant,” McCloskey said.

A January 21, 2019, version of the province’s policy defines a float home as a “structure built on a floatation system”. It is “used for permanent residentia­l habitation and is not intended for navigation, nor

usable as a navigable craft”.

Meanwhile, a float-home community “includes two or more floating homes that are physically connected to the shoreland and to each other by a common walkway or ramp”. It is “serviced by a potable water system, electrical system, and sewage disposal system approved by the responsibl­e authority”.

“Applicatio­ns for floating home community use of aquatic Crown land will not be accepted,” the policy states.

The province defines aquatic Crown land as “all the land, including the foreshore, from the high water mark out to the limits of provincial jurisdicti­on”.

However, a regional executive director with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Developmen­t, which is the agency responsibl­e for implementi­ng the policy, “may accept a written proposal from a proponent”.

The policy provides that such a proposal should have the support of local government.

FHABC secretary and spokespers­on Sandy McKellar told the Straight that there are about 800 float homes across the province. She recalled that the province’s policy of not encouragin­g new communitie­s started sometime in the 1990s.

McKellar thinks it may have something to do with early float homes associated with logging and fishing camps. They were towed from one location to another.

“They were, essentiall­y, water squatters,” McKellar said.

In contrast, McKellar noted that today’s homes stay in one location and are hooked up to utilities, especially sewage. “A floating home is connected to an address, and it stays there,” McKellar said.

McCloskey said the FHABC does not promote float homes as an “entry level” form of housing. He explained that although the homes generally cost less than a land-based house, they come with moorage fees that some may find quite high.

For example, the moorage fee of a home for sale at the Sea Island Village Marina on Granville Island in Vancouver amounts to $941 per month. Taylor listed the 4-1301 Johnston Street property with an asking price of $1,295,00. He said in the interview that he has received offers for the two-bedroom residence.

The Straight asked McCloskey if there is a case to be made about the need for more float-home communitie­s as part of discussion­s around housing in general.

McCloskey said the argument for this is mainly about increasing the current limited opportunit­ies for those who want a lifestyle connected with this form of housing. “There’s tiny homes, too, and tiny homes will never drive a tremendous amount of supply to the market. But as a component, tiny homes play a role, and so I think floating homes fit very much into that same kind of diversifie­d opportunit­y.”

In North Vancouver, Taylor recalled that he and his wife bought their first float home in 2012 at the Creek Marina and Boatyard after their three children moved out.

“I was cutting the grass and the hedges and, you know, maintainin­g a house, and we decided we’d like to travel and do some bit of a different lifestyle,” Taylor related.

They later sold that one and acquired another. Last year, they moved into another one, also in the same marina.

“It’s a very relaxing lifestyle,” Taylor said. “When you come down onto the water, you feel like you’ve left the city. So I tell people it’s sort of like living at the cottage or a vacation home all year long.”

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 ?? Photo by Sandy McKellar. ?? All the float homes at Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf have access to potable water, 30-amp power, and sewage hookups to prevent discharge of “black water”.
Photo by Sandy McKellar. All the float homes at Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf have access to potable water, 30-amp power, and sewage hookups to prevent discharge of “black water”.

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