What is a Floating Cottage?
This is an issue that GBA has been working on for around 25 years, but recently there has been a proliferation of new manufacturers and designs, and a consequent interest in developing appropriate regulations. This includes municipal regulation and possibly making these accommodation units subject to local taxes. GBA’s primary concerns are to ensure that environmental protections are in place, and the safety of both those on board (instability) and other vessels (navigability) are addressed. Proper disposal of black water, grey water and garbage are the most concerning environmental issues.
Floating cottage design varies between those that need to be towed from place to place, and those that have their own means of propulsion and navigation. However all are clearly accommodation units built on rafts, rather than within a hull. At present there is therefore a clear distinction between floating cottages and houseboats. This may change as more imaginative designs are developed.
Key developments on this issue so far are:
- Township of the Archipelago successful 1998 lawsuit to ban a floating cottage attached to crown land: ToA 1998 Floating Cottages Lawsuit Judgement
- Township of Georgian Bay has developed bylaws aimed at regulating floating cottages, see: TGB staff report on floating cottages Feb 2022
- A 2015 Ontario Supreme Court decision and a 2018 BC court decision that may provide support for municipal regulation: Kawartha Lake Supreme Court Decision – 2015 and BC Court Decision – 2018.
- The Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNR) asked for public comment on floating cottages. GBA’s suggested responses can be found here.
- GBA along with Gloucester Pool Cottagers’ Association (GPCA) and Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (GLSLCI) have asked Natural Resources Minister, Graydon Smith, to take the lead on this file. Read the GBA letter here.
- GBA provided information and guidance for members to provide feedback to MNRF regarding their amendments to the Publics Lands Act, which will include changes that will help to get floating accommodation structures properly regulated – here
- The priority for GBA’s Floating Cottage Strategy Group is now the Transport Canada Strategy Plan being spearheaded by Gloucester Pool Cottagers Association. The plan is a multi-pronged approach to get Transport Canada to put in place similar regulations to those that apply in B.C., so that Floating Cottages can also be properly regulated in Ontario.
There have also been some useful press coverage and presentations as follows:
Why this shipping container home is making waves in Ontario cottage country – CBC – November 3 2022 CBC article and video
- Township of Georgian Bay Press Release on Floating Container Dwellings – March 2022
- Tiny Eyeing Issue of Floating Homes on Horizon, Midland News – March 23 2022
- Gloucester Pool Association Presentation to Severn Township – March 2022
- Manitoulin First Nation, Municipal Leaders Express Opposition to ‘Floating Accommodations, Manitoulin Expositor – March 23 2022
- CBC: Ontario wants to ban cottage country “floating homes” made from shipping containers
- Parry Sound North Star May 2023: GBA is not trying to eliminate floating cottages as implied in this article, we simply want them to be properly regulated and located, for safety and environmental protection reasons.
- Cottage Life: This curious Georgian Bay structure is causing controversy in cottage country – May 24 2023
- National Post: Cottage country braces for the invasion of the floating May 20 2023
Members of GBA’s Floating Cottage Strategy Group spoke to CBC recently to discuss the need to property regulate pop-up floating cottages:
- Put together a strategic alliance, which includes the townships of Port Severn, Georgian Bay and Archipelago, FOCA, Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, and Gloucester Pool Cottagers Association
- Started discussions on a coordinated approach to determine how municipal regulations can be implemented and enforced
- Commenced discussions with Transport Canada to request that vessel licenses not be issued for floating cottages and those that have been issued are rescinded
- Provided input into MNR at a March 2022 consultation webinar on the issues
- Developed suggested comments to MNR on the March/April 2022 Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) posting, as above
- Submitted comments on the March/April MNR ERO posting:
- GBA thanks MNRF for their support on floating cottages issues but more help is needed: GBA amended letter to Minister Graydon Smith on proposed regulation changes and TC may 24 2023
- Continue to advocate to Transport Canada, MNR, and other government agencies for changes required to ensure municipalities can regulate floating cottages and full environment protections are in place
- Continue to work with municipalities, cottage associations and other stakeholders to establish a coordinated approach to determine how municipal regulations can be implemented and enforced