Why Does Seattle Have So Many Houseboats And Floating Homes?

By Lauren Haslett |

The history of these dockside dwellings and why it doesn’t get more PNW than this.

Floating homes and houseboats have been a part of Seattle’s shorelines since the 1890s, according to Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty broker Enrico Pozzo, who is also a bit of an expert on floating homes. While there used to be as many as 2,000 of these residences dotting the shores of Lake Washington, Lake Union, and the Duwamish River, today there are only about 500 set along the waterfront of Lake Union and Portage Bay.

So, what happened?

Well, like most things, it’s complicated. If you really want to dig into the details, you can read about the history of floating homes and the Seattle Floating Homes Association on the organization’s website or in the Seattle Municipal Archives. But the very short version is …

From the late 1800s through the Great Depression of the 1930s, floating homes became more popular as an economic alternative housing option for low-income residents. After the end the Great Depression, however, the number of floating homes around Seattle began to dwindle.

But while numbers have decreased and the demographics of these communities’ residents may have changed over the last several decades, Seattle’s houseboat communities have never completely disappeared. In fact, with only about 500 of these homes left, Seattle still claims more floating homes and houseboats than any other city in the United States.

Where you’re likely to find floating homes in Seattle today:



The location of the now-famous home from Sleepless in Seattle, the Westlake neighborhood was also historically the site of numerous logging companies and industry, making it an inexpensive and convenient home base for workers.


Located just steps away from Seattle’s trendy Fremont neighborhood, living in a floating home or houseboat here allows residents to enjoy life on the water, while still taking advantage of city conveniences and amenities, restaurants, and nightlife.


One of the largest communities of floating homes and houseboats can be found along Fairview Avenue E in the Eastlake neighborhood. Docks here are nearly twice as long as docks anywhere else in Seattle.

Portage Bay

The site of numerous floating home communities, this area is in close proximity to the University of Washington—many staff and professors of the college have called this area home, and have even been seen kayaking to work!

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