Oxford City Council recognises boats as affordable homes

In an astonishing U-turn compared to its previous anti-liveaboard policy, Oxford City Council voted to recognise boats as affordable housing in a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet on 9th December 2020.

A report by the Scrutiny Committee dated November 2020 made a series of proposals regarding Oxford’s waterways, including that the Council should include within its refreshed Housing and Homelessness Strategy “a section to consider the implications and responsibilities arising from endorsing the use of boats as homes in Oxford”. The Cabinet agreed with this proposal, stating that “the Council recognises that boats provide one of the few affordable housing options in the city”.

The Scrutiny Committee presented a number of recommendations to the Council’s Cabinet arising from its report on Oxford’s waterways by the Council’s Waterways Co-ordinator Tim Wiseman, who lives on a boat in Oxford. These also included proposals to improve the provision of facilities for liveaboards in Oxford and to explore the option of community ownership for moorings.

Paragraph 12 of the report is worth quoting in full:

“The Scrutiny Committee was generally supportive of the concept of boats being used as homes in the context of the high cost of accommodation within the city, and in particular welcomed the news that the development at Redbridge Paddocks includes plans for moorings. However, at present, some basic infrastructure for live-aboards moored in Oxford is absent; the nearest place to empty rubbish, sewerage and take on fresh water is in Abingdon, which is a journey of approximately two and half hours each way and, for an average boat, needs to be undertaken every one to two months. Clearly, for the existing live-aboards in Oxford this is sub-optimal, but as more moorings are created the need for local water, sewerage and rubbish-disposal increases. The Committee is aware that providing infrastructure is not cost-free, but members suggested that if boats are truly to be considered homes, an equivalence of spending between those residents living on boats and those on land is justified, and that the current level of infrastructure is suggestive that the boat-dwellers may at present be under-served. The Committee wonders whether CIL [Community Infrastructure Levy] funding for housing developments may be harnessed to put in such infrastructure.”

This is a significant U-turn compared to the Council’s previous anti-liveaboard policy which saw it establish the Unlawfully Moored Boats Enforcement Group in 2010 and propose a draconian Waterways Public Space Protection Order in 2016.

You can read and download the Oxford City Council Waterways Report and agreed actions here OCC Report to Cabinet – Waterways – FINAL

and the 2019 report Oxford Waterways – A Shared Vision here Oxford_Waterways___a_shared_vision___September_2019

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