Take to the Water; Solves Flat Problem

Ernest Hemingway

Toronto Daily Star/August 26, 1922

Paris.-Instead of driving people back to the land, the Parisian apartment shortage is driving fl.at-dwellers on to the water.

A socially prominent Parisian, finding his rent tripled on the expiration of his lease, inaugurated the new movement by refusing to sign on at the advanced figure, buying an old canal barge, he remodeled it into a super-­comfortable dwelling. The barge is large and roomy, the carpentry cost a fraction of the increased rent demanded, and the barge-dweller has a home he can moor in the Seine in the center of the most fashionable quarter. There are four bedrooms, a drawing room, kitchen, bathroom, dining room and billiard room in the floating flat and the owner is summering in it at present at Strasbourg, having crossed the width of France in a very en­joyable trip through the canal system of the Marne, Meuse and Moselle rivers.

Less pretentious “flat boats” are being launched at regular intervals and there is talk of a firm turning out standardized floating homes at popular prices for those Parisians who are desperate about the housing shortage.

The gravity of the housing situation was shown the other day by a rush on a Paris concierge who advertised a flat for rent through official channels. At nine o’clock in the morning the concierge informed the police that there was a flat vacant in the building at an annual rental of 1,800 francs. By five that afternoon the flat was rented.

In the next morning’s official journal appeared the notice that the flat was for rent. By noon nearly four thousand people had gathered to see about the flat. It looked like a riot and the concierge called the police, who dispersed the crowd and helped the concierge letter a big sign announcing that the flat was already rented.

(Source: Dateline: Toronto. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1985)

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