You Got to Be Kidding Me!

That’s One Way to Avoid Property Taxes

Posted in Economics, Urban Planning by Stacy McMahon on April 18, 2005

The Post reports that the high cost of housing is pushing some DC-area residents into the sea–literally. If you can organize your life to fit on a boat, you can think about mortgage and slip fees as little as $800 a month, compared to $9-1400 for a 1-bedroom apartment or $2-4000 for any type of house. It’s not just speculation; they found people from all walks of life who’ve given up on buying a house and are floating full-time.

Known in nautical circles as liveaboards, they include recent college graduates frustrated with high rents and retirees on fixed incomes who struggled to pay property taxes on their former houses. For some, it is the only way to stay off the streets.

“I’ve been homeless before, and I won’t be homeless again,” said Donald Littlepage, 44, a sheet-metal worker who moved aboard his boat after a second divorce.

The article goes on to say that several local marinas recorded a 300% increase in liveaboards in the past ten years. The fastest-growing county in the area (Loudoun) grew conservatively about 130% in the same timeframe. It’s hard to interpret those numbers. Living aboard is also a lifestyle choice that becomes available to more folks as the economy improves. The economics are compelling, though. There are no property taxes (potentially not even personal property since the boat doesn’t sit on real property) and the price of land, currently 50% or more of the cost of a new house in the area, doesn’t count into the mortgage at all. Offhand, I’d say there’s a solid opportunity here for an imaginitive marina developer and some project managers familiar with the houseboat lifestyle in the Pacific Northwest.

Juxtaposed with this, I heard on the radio this morning that the number of housing permits being issued in the metro area is falling. …Huh?

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