A South Florida man who won a U.S. Supreme Court victory over the right to live on a houseboat in 2013 has waded into a new houseboat controversy in Riviera Beach.
This time, a three-bedroom houseboat that Fane Lozman moved from North Bay Village to the Palm Beach County community in July has sunk under suspicious circumstances at its mooring on 25 acres of submerged land that Lozman owns off Singer Island.
After Lozman was notified Monday that the floating home was sinking, he twice tried and failed to pump it out and raise it from water that is six to 12 feet deep, depending on the tide. “It’s just so mucky there — it creates a suction and we couldn’t get it off the bottom,” he said Saturday. “The home has to be demolished. It breaks my heart. The wave action is carrying off the siding.
“I don’t know what took it down. Could it be a second act of vandalism? Yes, it could be,” said Lozman who plans to file a police report outlining the short and troubled tenure of the houseboat in Riviera Beach.
Someone broke into the houseboat about three weeks ago, he said, and left a couple of large bags of “human poop” behind in the living room of the floating home, which was built in 1967 and completely refurbished in 2002.
When he arrived at the sinking houseboat Monday, he found a second story door open and hatch covers on the first floor missing.
Before the houseboat sank, he had applied for a homestead exemption for it — a process complicated by the fact that he has tried unsuccessfully for two years to get Riviera Beach to assign his property an address. With an address, Lozman said, he could have gotten electrical service and other utilities for the houseboat. He said he would have installed a closed circuit surveillance system to monitor the houseboat and that might have thwarted acts of vandalism.
Fane said living aboard a houseboat is a “cool lifestyle” — albeit one that is vanishing from Florida. But not everyone is a fan of the floating lifestyle.
After a 19-hour journey from North Bay Village to the lagoon in Riviera Beach in July, he was greeted by some unhappy neighbors. “These people were livid. There were some guys in a boat who kept trying to hit me in the head with a drone,” he said.
“People don’t understand that the land is privately owned. It is rare in Florida these days to have privately owned submerged land,” Lozman said. “They thought I was squatting.”
Eventually he hopes to develop a community of luxury floating homes — in the $2 million to $3 million range — on the submerged land, using new technology that places the floating homes on virtually unsinkable platforms. He plans to call the community The Renegade.
“I don’t think that they should pollute our grass flats and the manatees and all the other animals that live here,” resident Mike Stratton told WPTV in West Palm Beach. “ [The houseboat] is on the bottom. Imagine 10 to 20 of these on the bottom back there.”
“I”m not going to quit. I’m just going to find something that is unsinkable,” Lozman said. “I tell people that on Singer Island, with sea level rise, the only homes that will exist in 30 years or so are floating homes.”
Lozman’s original houseboat troubles also played out in Riviera Beach. In early 2009, he said, the city “arrested” a floating home he had moved to the site after Hurricane Wilma destroyed the North Bay Village marina where he kept it, The houseboat was towed to the Miami River and eventually destroyed by Riviera Beach.
The city seized Lozman’s floating home under a law governing ships at sea but the Supreme Court agreed that the houseboat was a home not a vessel covered by maritime law.