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Sky-high rental costs prompt a Tel Aviv couple to take to the sea; others may follow

Forget a cramped apartment: Living on a yacht in the marina could be the White City’s most economical option

Illustrative: A yacht returns to Herzliya marina following the annual Ivy League yacht race, June 22, 2017. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Illustrative: A yacht returns to Herzliya marina following the annual Ivy League yacht race, June 22, 2017. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

As Tel Aviv faces a housing crisis with spiraling rents rocketing off the back of rising property prices, an enterprising professional has come up with an alternative that could prove to be the most frugal way to live in the Big Orange, now the world’s fifth most expensive city.

“Ella” told The Times of Israel that she plans to buy a nine-meter (30-foot) yacht with roughly the same amount of living space as a 16-square-meter (172-square-foot) apartment. The yacht costs less than a new car at somewhere between $10,000 and $72,000 (NIS 32,424 to NIS 247,853), depending on the exact specifications, and of course — provided Ella and her partner can obtain a mooring — comes with a beachfront location.

“We want to keep it in port for the first year or two — apart from the occasional weekend trip. We both work in Israel and would need to commute to our jobs from a marina,” Ella said. “After that, we might try to find some more flexible kind of work that could allow us to travel further, but we aren’t going to be in a position to retire any time soon.”

Recently a 16-square-meter studio apartment in south Tel Aviv went on the market for NIS 4,000 a month ($1,160) excluding bills. The bed, cooking facilities and bathroom are fitted into a space measuring just four meters by four meters (13 feet by 13 feet).

Rents in Tel Aviv are officially reported to be up by around 10 percent year over year for the first part of 2022, although a significant number of renters renewing leases in the city are being asked to meet increases of 30-40%, according to anecdotal stories circulating on social media, as landlords play catch-up on COVID-era price freezes.

Tel Avivians on an average salary — NIS 12,762 ($3,700) a month before tax according to the latest official statistics — are facing the very real dilemma of trying to cut costs elsewhere to stay in the city, or must move out.

Meanwhile, there are currently eight marinas in Israel. While they are not full, last year, the government tried to advance plans for six new marinas and faced widespread opposition from environmental campaigners. Of those plans, only development in Nahariya was given the go-ahead. But in recent weeks there have been indications that plans to add marinas to Hadera, Netanya and Bat Yam, among other locations, are about to be revived. There has also been some enthusiasm about expanding existing marinas in Haifa, Hertzliya, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Ashdod and Ashkelon.

Boats docked at the Ashkelon marina on the southern Mediterranean coast, on August 18, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Tel Aviv’s marina can handle boats up to 12 meters (39 feet) long. Across Israel’s marinas, mooring fees start at NIS 1,000 ($295) a month for a small yacht. This is substantially less than any apartment rental, particularly in the pricey Old North neighborhood of Tel Aviv, the residential area closest to the marina. Even with a black market in mooring spots rumored to be developing due to increasing pressure to find openings, living on a yacht in harbor could mean substantial savings.

Water and electrical utilities are available in marinas at very reasonable rates, even costing far less than they would in a conventional brick-and-mortar apartment. There are some hidden expenses and upkeep — insurance for living on board a boat (which comes in at around $800 a year), keeping either fresh water tanks full or some sort of filtration system running, managing sewage and regular maintenance for the boat against regular wear and tear — with the latter possibly costing around 10% of the boat’s value annually. However, the sum total of all these charges is similar to — or possibly less than — the yearly costs for tenants in conventional apartments (though landlords are ostensibly responsible for property maintenance).

Living on water may not be a solution for everyone, and it’s certainly a long way from the mainstream dream of climbing the housing ladder. But for Ella and her partner, rather than using a significant percentage of their monthly income to live in a tiny flat — let alone saving towards a downpayment on a property — they will be putting their money into a home they can keep in port until they are ready to sail away.

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