Could an Old Cruise Ship Provide Affordable Housing?

October 8, 2018

Local and federal officials continue to search for answers to the growing affordability crisis, as more people are priced out of housing and rental markets. And one official working for a nonprofit in Portland, Maine, believes he may have found the answer: Old cruise ships.

Cruise ship docked in harbor

© Vidar Østmo - EyeEm / Getty Images Plus

Kenneth A. Capron, who runs a Portland nonprofit that provides support to older people with dementia, is applying for a $250,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study the feasibility of turning a used cruise ship into housing for low-income individuals. He believes a retired cruise ship that can hold up to 1,200 people could be a viable solution.

Capron’s analysis examines the purchase price of refurbishing a ship to house individuals and then determines whether to offer housing to mixed-income residents, homeless people, or low-income workers. He also wants to study offering transitional services on the ship, such medical care, job training, and drug counseling.

The cruise ship would be docked in the New England port city. Portland has a waiting list of 1,123 families that are in need of low-income housing, according to its mayor, Ethan K. Strimling.

"Pretty sure if we were to take any ship and use it for affordable housing we could fill it up in two days,” Capron told NBC News. A similar idea of using retired cruise ships has been considered in places like Seattle and Auckland, New Zealand.

Many municipal and federal officials are trying to find an answer to the affordable housing crisis following the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s recent report showing that the homeless population has risen for the first time in seven years. For example, a pilot program in Denver is trying to help low-income homeowners build accessory dwelling units, or “granny flats,” in their yards to not only earn extra income but also address the city’s housing shortage. Other cities have drawn up proposals to house teachers in former schools.