Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Can you legally live aboard a boat in Vancouver?

Is it too good to be true?
Can you live on a sailboat in Vancouver? Those in search of alternative housing options in the expensive city

low-cost rental option in Vancouver that just so happened to be a boat generated a lot of discussion about the legality of such living arrangements.

We reached out to the City of Vancouver to find out what the rules are for living on a boat. 

Where can you live on a boat in Vancouver?

There are two marinas in Vancouver where people can live on their boats, Heather Civic Marina and Spruce Harbour Marina, both of which are in False Creek.

The city's False Creek Official Development and Area Plan allows for liveaboards in False Creek. The rule states that "persons wishing to live aboard their motor or sailing vessels in False Creek may be permitted to do so provided that such vessels comply with all City, Provincial and Federal regulations and/or standards."

The 89-page document defines liveaboards as "vessels, boats or ships which are designed primarily for the purpose of sailing in open waters, whether by means of sail, motor or other means and which are incidentally used as habitable accommodations."

However, for now, there is a maximum of 1,700 boats permitted in the False Creek Basin and there are only 450 wet berths in existence which may limit the places in Vancouver where someone could park their accommodation.

Granville Island also has some private piers and houseboats which are part of the False Creek Comprehensive Development District (FCCDD) that allows residential use on zoned “land” but according to the city they are considered "water lots."

The City’s License Bylaw also has language on marinas that moor live-aboard boats but this is focused on calculating fees for the licence. They define an 'occupied live-aboard boat' as "any live-aboard boat which is used as a place of abode within the City by one or more persons for a minimum of sixty consecutive or nonconsecutive days, during a calendar year."

How much will it cost?

Heather Civic Marina is run by the city and charges $1,521 per occupied liveaboard boat of 21 feet or less in length and for boats that exceed 21 feet but are less than 26 feet, the charge is $1,841. The prices increase with size capping at $2,608 for boats longer than 37 feet.

There is also a moorage fee of $15.58 per foot per month and electricity use is metered so boats are charged based on usage. Failure to pay these fees can result in a minimum fine of $250 and up to $10,000 and towing of the vessel.

The waitlist is over 10 years and they are not currently accepting applications.

Spruce Harbour Marina operates a little differently because it is run by a co-op and members buy an upfront share of $50,000. Members live in half of the marina while the co-op collects market-rate moorage from recreational boaters in the other half, which contribute to the co-op’s payments to the City for the water lot rent, liveaboard permits, and city services.

There are 55 families who currently live in Spruce Harbour and they pay approximately $8 per foot for their vessels. Fees can range from $600 to $1000 a month but they also have access to free laundry, an event space, and they are plumbed directly into the city's sanitation line.

There is currently a 10-year waiting list but people can get in by buying a boat from an outgoing member.

Is it cheaper than renting?

The average cost of a rental in Vancouver right now is $2,247 for an unfurnished one-bedroom unit, plus utilities. Assuming you are renting a 28-foot boat for $200/month as the Facebook Marketplace listing suggests and you can get into the city-run Heather Civic Marina, the monthly cost of living aboard the vessel would be $809.07/month plus power usage.