Climate-Resilient Floating Residences

Zoning Practice — February 2024

By Margaret Byerly Williams


ZP subscriber
List price
Sign In & Download

Not a member but want to buy a copy? You'll need to create a free My APA account to purchase. Create account

Most people are unfamiliar with floating residences other than what is portrayed in the media, such as the floating home in which Tom Hanks' character lives in the classic 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle; however, these residences, which are designed to float in a water body, present a potential opportunity for coastal communities to enhance their resilience in the face of climate change.

The U.S. is home to thousands of floating residences, and in other countries, like the Netherlands, developers have begun building amphibious houses that adapt to rising water levels. Because they rise and fall with water, amphibious homes potentially could help communities adapt to flooding, storm surge, and sea level rise associated with climate change. Despite these adaptive benefits, many local governments ban floating residences or tightly regulate them, making it difficult, if not impossible, to live in a floating house.

This issue of Zoning Practice explores the climate-adaptive features of floating residences, describes the different types of floating residences and the regulatory barriers they face, and explains how local jurisdictions typically regulate floating residences. It concludes by suggesting some climate-smart zoning strategies for floating residences and encourages communities to further investigate how they can support these resilient homes.


Page Count
Date Published
Feb. 1, 2024
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Margaret Byerly Williams
<p>Meg&rsquo;s experience includes helping municipalities implement regulatory, planning and policy initiatives to facilitate sustainable development within their communities with extensive experience developing trainings, manuals, reports, publications, and planning and zoning recommendations on environmental and sustainable development topics. She has served as lead author on the U.S. Green Building Council&rsquo;s Technical Guidance Manual for Sustainable Neighborhoods and has helped numerous municipalities use this manual to audit zoning district regulations and identify zoning amendments that facilitate sustainable neighborhood development. Meg also contributed to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality&rsquo;s Environmental Justice Study, for which she helped develop an EJ strategies framework and drafted the legal authorities section. She serves as in-house counsel for Skeo Solutions, Inc. where she also develops and implements corporate compliance policies. Prior to joining Skeo, Meg worked as a staff attorney at the Land Use Law Center at Pace Law School and she continues her work for the Center as a sustainable development consultant. Meg serves as the Ex Officio Member of the Divisions Council Executive Committee and Editor of the Case Law Digest for the American Planning Association&rsquo;s Planning and Law Division. Meg is a member of the Virginia State Bar.</p>