Expat houseboat owners in Discovery Bay given three months notice

Published:  3 Oct at 6 PM
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Enterprising expat professionals who’ve found a way to minimise their rental costs in Hong Kong are now being evicted.

The marina in Hong Kong’s Discovery Bay is packed out with houseboats, many of which are owned by members of the city’s expat community. Around 180 families live on the water, saving money on Hong Kong’s sky-high rental charges and enjoying a unique way of life. Sadly, it’ll be over soon, as all have received totally unexpected eviction notices, informing them the Discovery Bay Marina Club will be closed from December 31 for ‘renovations aimed at meeting the leisure needs of its growing pleasure boat and sailing community’.

There’s little chance of being able to move to another watery location in the crowded city, nor is their much chance for owners to sell their houseboats, and finding affordable on-land accommodation is set to become an impossible task in the planet’s least affordable real estate marketplace. Apartments situated close by the marina offering the same square meterage as an average houseboat are being sold for sums only the most wealthy are able to afford.

In addition to the notices to quit, there’s another headache for houseboat owners – that of the debenture, a berthing license normally bought and sold along with the boat. The Marina Club licenses will be bought back at face value at the end of December, thus forcing a huge drop in the potential sales prices of the houseboats. The houseboat community holds expat professionals in the legal, medical and airline sectors, with New Zealand expat Casey Kiihfuss telling the media the marina would have been empty had its prospective residents been aware their licenses were only temporary.

Living on the water has long been a popular alternative to Hong Kong’s frantic high-rise city life, with local loan companies financing boat mortgages and helping to fund the purchase of debentures. Casey and her pilot husband bought their houseboat five years ago for HK$8.5 million including the debenture as a great place to live along with their three children whilst saving up for an apartment.

They’re now stuck with an HK$6.1 million loan and a three-month debenture which cancels out any chance of selling the boat. Finding a suitable apartment could well cost a monthly rental of HK$90,000 and they’ll still be paying off their original loan. Residents are petitioning for at least a delay as well as clarity as to whether they will ever be able to return.
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