Spacious bathroom and kitchen, living room with fireplace, double bed and a window in the roof with the views on the starry sky. Many dream about a house like Charlie McLaren has. But the 67-year-old owner does not live there, but spends almost all his time in an old boat, equipped for an apartment. The 32-meter vessel VIOD II is gently rocks by the waves of the Thames near the Hermitage docks, not far from the Tower Bridge. Here the boat is parked next to 17 other retro-boats, which are also a family home for pensioners and former employees of the river fleet.
Houseboats - as an alternative to renting expensive apartments and houses in the British capital - have recently become popular. "It is something unheard of: to know all your neighbors by name in the center of London," - says McClaren, who moved to the old boat 50 years ago. But here, among other "apartments" on the river, something like a mini-community has already been created. In the summer, neighbors sometimes go out together in the sea or meet in a friendly way on the barbecue. Nevertheless, the community is not the main reason why McClaren moved to a houseboat. "Life on the river gives me a feeling of freedom," - he says.
A former journalist and his partner pay about 900 pounds a month for the opportunity to live on a boat. This price includes municipal tax, heating, hot water, repairs and mooring fees. According to real estate agency Foxtons, living in the same area in central London in a room with a built-in kitchen and a small bathroom will cost at least 1500 pounds a month. "For most people, high real estate prices play a significant role when they decide to move to a houseboat," - says Fran Rick from the Canal & River Trust, which manages most of London's waterways. It should be noted, that in the period from 2012 to 2016 the number of owners of houseboats in London increased by 57%.