Questions surface over city owned boat houses

New Orleans - All along Breakwater Drive there are boat houses. Some are set aside as a weekend getaway, others, a place considered a more permanent residence.

Even though they may look different, every boat house sits on city property.

"The city is leasing out the water bottom, basically the right for the person to own the improvements on top of it, the house and the structure," says City Councilwoman Susan Guidry.

So what would you pay for Lakefront property?

The City of New Orleans is charging residents of 130 boat houses at the Municipal Yacht Harbor, an average of just $2,400 a year.

"It's been one of the Mayor's statements that he's made over and over, that New Orleans for too long has been giving away too much," says Guidry

Through the years, boat houses and leases have been sold from one tenant to the next. Private tenants have walked away with almost $13 million over the last 15 years, selling 75 of the generous leases on the private market. That's according to records obtained by our partners at the Lens.

Meanwhile, the city has only pocketed a 3 percent transfer fee from those sales.

"Now that I think about it, $2,400 is a really good deal," says Sidney Torres.

SDT owner Sidney Torres used to own boat house 47. He purchased the lease back in 2002 and at the time paid $127,000 for it.

Torres says he then made renovations to the boat house.

"I put about a hundred thousand dollars in it and I ended up selling it for around $325,000. For me, I was busy all the time and I wasn't going to use it," says Torres.

Several of the boat houses are for sale now. For example, boat house 57 has an asking price of $495,000. Another boat house, still gutted is for sale for $165,000.

We also noticed a few of the boat houses had a 'for rent' sign on them. Tenants though are forbidden from subletting their boat house by a clause in the lease unless they get written permission from the harbor and pay a 10 percent fee to the city on those rental revenues.

Councilwoman Susan Guidry says she spoke with the Municipal Yacht Harbor Management Corporation, the Corporation that oversees the property for the city.

She says according to the board, no one has been allowed to sublet post Katrina.

"That's something enforcement-wise, it sounds like we need to look into," says Guidry.

The lakefront property is in Guidry's district. She says the Landrieu Administration is looking into whether or not the city is getting a fair market value for its leases. She also points out that the Council has to respect the legality of the current leases, which right now, don't expire until the year 2030.

The city released a statement tonight saying, "The Municipal Yacht Harbor is an important city asset, and we are committed to the revitalization of our property at West End. As we has demonstrated in our first 11 months in office, we are committed to making sure the citizens of New Orleans receive fair market value for all public assets and that all transactions of those assets are open and fair."

For more information on this story, go to