Living on water – dream or threat?

Diana Miu –

New Climate Change report raises concerns for Amsterdammers living in houseboats and floating houses.

There are many things Amsterdam is known for: weed, the red-light district, wild nightlife, canals…and now, more than ever, houses on water. Be it houseboats or floating houses, a wave of locals and tourists are looking for alternative places to live around land-scarce Netherlands.

Facing a shortage of housing, many locals chose to relocate on the waters of Amsterdam. And with the Monday report by IPCC warning coastal countries of increased flooding in the next decades, that raises some concerns. Maria, 43-years-old, moved with her family on a houseboat in Oost-Amsterdam. “We moved here two years ago or something like that, right before the pandemic hit. Looking back now, with everything that’s happening in our economy, it seems like a good choice!”

The rising demand for floating houses is a trend that is here to stay. And even though demand is rising, the risks are as well. “It’s been great so far! But yeah, of course there are risks, maybe more so than normal houses. My husband and I have to be wary at all times about weather forecasts, what’s happening around the house and so on,” says Maria.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report on Monday, stating that Earth will now regularly be struck by floods and drought in future decades with some extreme phenomena having “potentially irreversible” impact on the planet as we know it. IPCC warned that there will be an “existential threat” to European coastal towns, as sea levels will be continuously rising by the end of the century.

For a coastal country like the Netherlands, and a canal-famous city like Amsterdam, Monday’s report is a gloomy look into the future.

What will happen to the quirky floating boats of the capital city? And how come market demand and prices for these on-water accommodations have been increasing even though flooding risks are looming?

Capaan & Falkeisen, a houseboat agency in Amsterdam, seems to think living on Amsterdam’s waters doesn’t impose much threat right now. “Extreme storms and floods can always have an effect, of course. But I don’t expect water levels to rise that much anytime soon.”

Like any real estate right now, prices for houseboats and floating houses have been rising continuously, considering the heated nature of the industry. “It’s been a niche market for many years, decades or so. The demand is always high and will probably remain that way. And like all real estate, prices have been increasing.”, says Capaan & Falkeisen’s spokesperson.

It remains to be seen what the future of water-living holds. Netherlands is known to be amongst the most environmentally aware and adaptable countries in Europe, which will prove helpful in the battle against rising water levels, floods and extreme storms to come.

Tourists will be enjoying this unique trait of the capital city at least for the foreseeable future. And Amsterdammers do not seem to worry over any dangers now.

“I doubt bad things will happen. I believe houseboats are the future, and we’ll find ways to adapt. I’m alert, but I’m not worried,” tells Maria.