Floating homes in New Zealand face a number of potential environmental and financial problems but might be feasible under the right circumstances, experts say.

Simon Herbert, managing director of marina owner and developer Empire Capital, said getting a mortgage to buy a floating home was one of the biggest impediments to the novel scheme.

But REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell feared New Zealand's coastline could be threatened.

Simon Herbert raised the issued of mortgages for floating homes. Photo/Kirsten Grant
Simon Herbert raised the issued of mortgages for floating homes. Photo/Kirsten Grant

Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie said she liked the new idea as long as the potential environmental issues were addressed.

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Their comments come after a Coromandel scheme was announced this week for 12 floating homes on a canal yet to be created.

Read more: First NZ floating home community planned for Coromandel

Kerry Martin of Waterside Sustainable Developments of Selwyn St in Onehunga said the business was planning the country's first floating community at Whitianga Waterways where 12 homes would be priced from $1.6 million and could have up to six bedrooms each.

Herbert said funding was potentially the biggest obstacle, as banks like land-based security for lending on homes, so the banking sector would probably need to determine policies to enable buying this new type of house.

Auckland was short of housing so floating homes could address that and suit modular construction identified as a fast-track solution, he said.

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"It has worked overseas, and there are numerous examples of house-boat living around the world. At one end of the scale, we are already doing this with live-aboards within our marinas. It is only the form of the boat that is evolving here into more of a house," he said.

The Boat Sheds, proposed for Gulf Harbour three years ago but never built.
The Boat Sheds, proposed for Gulf Harbour three years ago but never built.

An Auckland floating-home scheme would need detailed planning because the structures would need sheltered areas, good ground conditions for mooring and access to infrastructure like power and sewage, he said.

"There are numerous smaller waterways around Auckland that could accommodate clusters or a series of linked boats. Aucklanders, in general, are becoming more willing to embrace new ideas and new ways of living. This is potentially more affordable - no land costs - generally smaller so not paying for as much boat/house, but obviously comes with additional complications for water-proofing and pumping sewage.

"The fact they may have to walk to get to where their car is parked (if, in fact, they have one) is more than offset by ability to live in potentially spectacular locations," Herbert said.

Norwell said it was good to see plans for Whitianga but they would not be classed as affordable.

"Many cities around the world have turned to the idea of floating homes as housing costs have continued to rise," she said, citing Amsterdam, Portland, Copenhagen and Seattle.

"Our only concern would be around making sure that environmental regulations were adhered to to protect our coastlines," Norwell said.

Goudie said: "I love innovation and hearing about innovative ways for work to be done. And as long as there's been robust work around how to deal with disposal of wastewater and the like, and no adverse effects to the environment then it looks to me like a novel way to deal with the housing shortage."

A Gulf Harbour proposal for floating homes launched three years ago has failed to materialise. Michael Webb-Speight said this week that no work has yet begun on the Gulf Harbour floating homes he announced three years ago.

"We're still battling to get building consent. We got resource consent. It very much remains our intention to do this. We're trying to comply with the Building Act as it pertains to a residential dwelling. It's really hard and very, very complicated," he said of getting approval for his project, The Boat Sheds.