According to a BBC report, the government is offering councils financial incentives to allow more moorings for houseboats on waterways. Housing Minister Grant Shapps suggests new moorings could be eligible for the New Homes Bonus, which sees the government match council tax from new-build homes, because houseboats could allow people to live in areas that otherwise might be out of their financial reach.
Sorry, Mr Shapps, but did you think before you suggested this? Boats are cheaper to buy in the first place than houses, but shed loads more expensive to run. Unless you’re a constant cruiser, the costs of mooring are the equivalent of a mortgage.
And life aboard can be hard – you have to be on the water because you love it, not because it’s cheap housing.
Might I suggest an alternative approach to overpriced housing that won’t sell: the banks lent money they shouldn’t have lent. This was utterly irresponsible. When I applied for my first mortgage, you were entitled to two and a half times one salary, plus a second as the maximum they would lend. So house prices were kept at a reasonable level. If the government were to reimpose this financial rule, house prices would fall.
Before you crucify me for suggesting that this is a good thing, stop and think. A house isn’t in negative equity until you sell, and most that have big equity are second (plus) purchases funded by the huge price increase that the indiscriminate lending generated. We all accepted these ridiculous sized debts, so it’s partly our fault as well (although we all had little choice).
So how about the banks taking the hit of the price fall by having to write off any mortgages where a house has been sold for less than the value of the mortgage (negative equity)? That would be fair on everyone, adjust house prices down and create a sensible, entry level market. The developers currently sat on tracts of undeveloped brownfield land would be tempted to release it, simultaneously increasing supply (although the developers would be spitting feathers as well).
Or something: I’m not an economist or politician – I’m siure bigger brains than mine can come up with some solutions.
I’d love to see more moorings created, but there aren’t enough to cope with the boats already on the water. The legal arrangements are complex, and boats are not cheap housing. If you want to increase the number of moorings, repeal the laws brought in that give residential boaters the same rights as council house tennants: this well meaning rule discourages offering residential moorings. If an antisocial boater takes a mooring, their other ‘tennants’ will move on, and they could be left with a 35 ton problem to remove from the water at a later stage.
I’m a big advocate for our lifestyle, but it’s not right for everyone and can be really hard. Mr Shapps is more than welcome to come on down and experience it first hand. I like his lateral thinking, but don’t think he’s really thought through the implications!
**Stop press* commented in the article on the link above – and the journalist reached out and interviewed me – the comments have been somewhat edited (understandably) but yes, that’s me in the shot: http://ht.ly/6egWx