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Sinking feeling


I’m afraid that this is beyond parody, but couldn’t go unremarked. Anyway, it is a quiet time for judgments.

Today the National Housing Federation took the view that housing provision in the UK, or England at least, is basically demented, with millions to be locked out of property ownership, but the resulting demand for private rental properties (given the lack of social housing) is putting private rent levels up to unaffordable levels.

The Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, took to the broadcast media to announce how his policies would improve things – according to his twitter feed (@grantshapps), there were some 6 or 7 recorded or live appearances.

And what was the solution Mr Shapps wanted to highlight?


According to Mr Shapps, this is an example of how ‘unconventional housing’ can solve the housing crisis. He announced that houseboats would attract the ‘new homes bonus’ (double the council tax for 6 years for the council).

Whilst they will never overtake bricks and mortar in putting a roof over the heads of families, innovative new ways of housing families – such as residential moorings – play an important role in allowing people to live near to their place of work, children’s school, or family, and where perhaps they would not be able to afford to otherwise, […]

Around 15,000 people live on our waterways and many more would like to do so. The government’s commitment to Localism could be an opportunity for living on boats to be given a new lease of life. […]

Where houseboats pay council tax, communities will be eligible for the new homes bonus, so the potential economic benefits are huge. […]

Landlords, councils and communities all have a clear incentive to get more mooring sites in their areas and not become landlocked in their quest to meet local housing needs.

I have no words. Satire is dead, having been overtaken by reality. This is an episode of ‘The Thick of It‘ and Armando Iannucci may as well sign on for Jobseekers.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. kris

    Brilliant! I’ve always fancied living on a house boat in Chelsea Harbour!

    • NL

      And you think that RBKC will leap on this idea, devaluing their moorings and the waterside residences with floating poorer people? Pah. There are northern canals for that.

  2. JHM

    Because mortgages on houseboats are so darned easy to get hold of, right? Oh no wait.

  3. Kris

    Lol had a friend who was interested in a Chelsea Harbour houseboat back in the day. Not only were mooring fees exorbitant but the marine surveyor’s fees re seaworthiness (recurring) and repairs were not cheap either.

    Maybe Grant’s thinking more along the lines of a HMO barge with racks like we had when I was a naval rating in drydock – which would be a total win.

    First Nadine, now this. You couldn’t make this up.

  4. ben

    Maybe they could turn the old prison boats into luxury studio cells.

  5. Douglas

    I wonder if the nice people at Basildon Council will be reading the first paragraph of Shapps’ comment.

  6. Ahdok

    This plan was devised by government canalysts.

  7. Cait

    Oooh prison ships as a new form of des res accommodation in London?
    (I was aghast to discover that they are still using these!)

    And leave our northern canals alone – Houseboats on the Serpentine sounds far better.

  8. Peter

    Grant Shapps appears to be very good in coming up with ideas that just aren’t workable – not so long ago it was “mates mortgages” (which there is still only one bank providing) now houseboats and the other ill thought out plan to “just build more” in a bid to dilute house prices – see

    The monetary system and mortgage market need fixing – more hair-brained ideas are simply delaying the crash further.

  9. Andrew H

    From where I sit I can see a nice riverside location, in central London. Just the spot for mooring houseboats. And so convenient for Westminster. I’m sure Mr Shapps will be happy to take tea on the terrace of the House of Commons, knowing the reason all he can see are houseboats on the Thames is down to his policies. And it will give the local Council somewhere to put all the homeless it otherwise won’t be able to afford to house in central London. Win, win – I just carn’t see any problems at all!


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