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.
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, a houseboat wich 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.