Saturday, December 17, 2011

Houseboat Living

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS – Along Amsterdam’s elaborate canal system are 2,400 houseboats – some occupied by long time owners, and others by long and short term renters. There are even houseboat hotels. Although they are relatively small at about 25 meters in length, Amsterdam’s houseboats have all the amenities of off water dwellings, and about 750 are moored downtown.

Houseboat living emerged during the city’s post World War Two housing shortage that was matched by an overabundance of old, empty cargo ships moored along the canals. It reached its peak in the 1960s and 70s. While it may have been a relatively inexpensive way to live back then, it certainly isn’t now because the City Council limits the number of mooring permits. In fact, in recent years no new mooring permits have been released. This has resulted in higher rental and purchase costs, as well as increasing numbers of houseboats being converted to hotels by entrepreneurs eager to cash in on a growing tourist niche.

A good place to learn more about the history and present living conditions of Amsterdam’s houseboats is the city’s houseboat museum.

Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an Associate Professor in Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be reached at

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