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The Great Seattle Floating Home War Of 2013 Has Begun

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We've been hearing a lot recently about the battle between Lake Union floating home owners and the city of Seattle. Despite the iconic nature of the homes, some in the city seem to be intent on getting rid of them. Friday, Seattle begun tagging floating homes on Lake Union with violations in an attempt to remove them.

To understand what's going on, we first need to distinguish a houseboat from a floating home.

A houseboat is considered a water-oriented vehicle. It has a motor. At any given moment, it could steer out of its dock and head onto open waters. It is by all accounts a boat that someone calls home.

A floating home, however, is not a water vessel. It is a home, usually a large one, that just so happens to be built on a floating apparatus. It has no motor, no steering, no safety equipment and for all intents and purposes is no different than a home on land.

Now, there is a lot of gray area in what constitutes each but one thing seems to be clear. Houseboats are totally acceptable, assuming they meet new regulations. Floating homes are going to be illegal, it seems, according to those same new regulations.

What's driving this sudden crackdown by the city? According to Molly Cartwright of Cooper Jacobs Real Estate, it's basically a land grab. Or in this case, a shoreline grab.

In broad terms, the dispute is about freeing up the shorelines on parts of Lake Union. According to the state law, water dependent (vs water oriented) businesses and industries, shoreline restoration and public access are all given priority. With this in mind, some city council members say shorelines should be preserved for recreational and water-dependent uses (aka not houseboats). Yet other city committee representatives say they want to protect the Seattle lifestyle of houseboats. Yep, definitely confusing. So what's next? A whole bunch of agencies and associations are trying to finalize a ruling on what, exactly, constitutes a houseboat. They've set a deadline of January 14th to make it happen. Of course, no matter what decisions they make, there will be a vocal opposition based on the criteria that no longer qualifies or conflicts. This is one local real estate battle that's just heating up.

Are Houseboats Drifting Away? [Seattle PI]