Float Homes of Bayview
The “Floating Village” at Bayview, Idaho has been a unique community for over 100 years. There are over 200 of the historical floating homes in Idaho with about 100 of them being in one central location of Scenic Bay on Lake Pend Oreille.
The float homes started appearing along the shoreline in the early 1900’s. The original homes were simple fishing shacks to shelter fishermen that came to the lake for the Kokanee salmon. The homes were connected to the shore by crude plank walkways. The shacks had been built on a deck covering large cedar logs that had been tied or chained together forming a type of raft. The homes could be moved from job site to job site along the lake.
As fishing, boating and vacationing on the lake became more popular, more float homes appeared in all of the marinas. Families would spend weekends and holidays on the lake in their homes. By the 1970s float homes had been built in all five marinas in the bay. Each home was unique from the others and no longer as mobile as in the past. Permanent docks stretched into the bay from shore and the float homes occupied boat slips along those docks. By 1991 due to environmental concerns the homes were required to be connected to the sewer system on shore creating a more permanent location.
New float homes are not allowed to be constructed. The last home that the state approved was in the 1970s. Home owners are allowed to remodel existing homes as long as they retain the original “footprint” meaning the existing flotation system of cedar logs. The homes could not be expanded in width, but a second story could be added. A few home owners realized the hard way that with a second story the home becomes unstable and could tip on its side. Several homes met this fate in January 2015 due to the heavy snowfall. Now plastic 55 gallon barrels called “totes” are put in a stainless steel cage and bolted to the logs under the home. This helps stabilize the home and supports extra weight.
Owning and living on a float home is not as cheap as it was in the early 1900s. Today, the home is considered personal property and the owner pays a personal property tax to the county like they would a car or motor home. The State of Idaho charges the marina about $250.00 for each float home on submerged land and that cost is handed down to the owner in the form of rent (moorage). This rent is determined by the square footage of the float home. The home owners were concerned that the marinas would unduly increase the rent to cover the state charges and make a profit. Another concern that arose was the threat of eviction in order to free up space for rental homes by the marinas. It is not an easy task to pack up and move a float home.
In 1995 the Floating Homes Association was founded to maintain moorage fees and prevent homes from being forcibly moved to a location with a lesser view. In 1998 Idaho passed the Floating Homes Residency Act (Title 55 Chapter 27) to protect the homes and owners from unfair moorage increases and evictions.
Setting aside the economic complications, waking up every morning to the sound of water lapping at your door and the ospreys welcoming the day would be truly awesome!