The inner waters of Amsterdam are nowadays inhabited by some 2400 families on houseboats. Of those 2400, about 750 are moored within the 17th century canal system of downtown Amsterdam There are concentrations in several parts of the canals whereas other stretches are deliberately kept empty. Living on the water mainly came in vogue after the second world war when there was a housing shortage on one hand, and a surplus of old cargoships on the other. The Dutch cargo-fleet was modernised in those days and a lot of people saw a good opportunity for housing in the cast off ships with their average lenght of about 25 metres.
In the sixties and seventies the instream was at its biggest and the outside the most colorful under the influence of flower power. The circumstances on board must have been rather primitive in our modern eyes. Nowadays it is not the cheapest way of living anymore and the comfort on board leaves hardly anything to wish.
Under the present policy of the Amsterdam city council the number of houseboats is fixed, no more new mooring permits are released. One of the consequences of this policy is that the price of the houseboats with a permit have increased rapidly the last years. In downtown Amsterdam the smallest boats will sell at 80.000 Euro at the least.
Types of houseboats
Houseboats can be divided into two kinds although Amsterdam also uses a third sub-kind.
The first kind is the houseSHIP, an old cargoship where the cargo bay is refurbished to provide an addition to the (too) small captains quarters in the back of the ship. The vast majority of these ships were built in the first quarter of this century, mostly out of steel or iron.
The subtype in Amsterdam is the houseVESSEL. This type has the hull of an old ship but here the original steering house and deck layout is completely removed to make room for a structure only ment to live in.
The third kind of houseboat is the ark (now adays also called ‘water villa’), a houseboat which is designed solely for housing purposes. Arks are built on square hulls, the earlier out of steel, nowadays mostly out of concrete. The concrete variety is almost maintenancefree whereas all other houseboats have to be taken out of the water regularly for inspection and treatment against rust. The construction on the arks is mostly made out of wood although in Amsterdam some arks have a brick house.