The government has unveiled its latest answer to the shortage of affordable homes in Britain: it wants more people to live on houseboats.
Local authorities will be given financial incentives to allow more residential moorings on rivers, canals and tidal waters, while the public could qualify for housing benefit to cover mooring fees.
About 15,000 people live on boats and ministers want to make the option available to many others amid concern about the cost of getting a foot on the housing ladder and the number of new homes being built.
Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, said yesterday: "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 their place of work, children's school, or family, and where perhaps they would not be able to afford to otherwise." He believed many more people would like to live on boats. With half the population living within five miles of a waterway, he said, the wider public could benefit from a funding injection.
Where houseboat residents pay council tax, communities will be eligible for the "new homes bonus", a £250m-a-year pot of grants to encourage local authorities to provide more housing.
Alan Wildman, chairman of the Residential Boat Owners' Association, said: "Living afloat is arguably the most sustainable, lowest impact way to live."