Floating Accommodations

Floating container dwellings have emerged as a blight on the waters of Central Ontario. They may be coming to other areas of the Province too, in time.

August 2023 – The “Float Homes Not Vessels Coalition” that includes FOCA members from the Georgian Bay Association and the Gloucester Pool Cottagers Association, has produced an information guide: “What to do if you see a Floating Home” (download PDF, 6 pages) including contact information of various governmental departments.

June 23, 2023 – Ontario has banned overnight stays of floating accommodations on Ontario’s waterways, effective July 1, 2023. Read the Ontario media release: “Protecting Provincial Waterways.”

Also read related CBC News coverage and CTV News coverage of this development.

For clarity on the new rules, which specify that floating accommodations are not a type of camping unit that can be used to camp on Crown land, please visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/recreational-activities-on-crown-land. If you spot a violation of this regulation, you can use the MNRF Tips line: 1-877-847-7667 to notify the Ministry.

These repurposed shipping containers are marketed as floating homes, but can be a navigational hazard, a visual scar, and an environmental risk.

images above are courtesy the Gloucester Pool Cottagers’ Association, 2022.

FOCA Members can login below for a full set of slides from the presentation GPCA made at the 2022 FOCA Spring Seminar.

Related and Earlier News Coverage of this issue:

Oct.27, 2023 – FOCA Members speak out against floating homes – Tay Township: Residents group urges Tay to sink ‘floating junk’ on local waters (MidlandToday.ca)

July 5, 2023 – Provincial government bans floating accommodations from parking on public waterways (Cottage Life)

May 2023 – As part of FOCA’s ongoing concerns about floating accommodations on Ontario waterways, we want our member Association to know that sample letters have been created by our members at the Gloucester Pool Cottagers Association (GPCA), and shared with FOCA for you to personalize and send to the federal Minister of Transport (PDF, 2 pages), and to your municipality (PDF, 3 pages) asking them to take action as well.

Additionally, there is a House of Commons paper petition circulating, asking Transport Canada (TC) to classify both existing and new float homes within Ontario as float homes – NOT “vessels”, in a manner consistent with the TC precedent established in British Columbia in 2001. See instructions on completing the “Float Homes not Vessels” petition (download PDF, 1 page), as posted by our member group, the Muskoka Lakes Association.

If you or your local association is interested in participating in this petition with the 30 associations that are already engaging, please reach out directly to the GPCA by email: mail.gpca@gmail.com

March 2023 – FOCA made official comment on the ERO public consultation about Floating Accommodations. The original proposal underwent wording amendments in response to concerns raised by the boating community that, as written, it could change or limit boat mooring access. The Environmental Registry public comment period continued to April 11, 2023. Here is FOCA’s comment:

The Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations (FOCA) respectfully provides the following input with respect to the proposal to amend Ontario Regulation 161/17, Public Lands Act with respect to floating accommodations (ERO number 019-6590).

FOCA is in support of the proposed exclusions, whereby floating accommodations or float homes are not considered as “camping units” and thusly cannot be placed and used for overnight accommodation on water over public land.

FOCA remains concerned about the enforceability of such measures, with respect to being able to reasonably identify what is a floating accommodation and what is not. We would offer that the definitions of floating accommodations as defined elsewhere by Transport Canada be included in the regulation to clarify who is and is not implicated in the prohibition. In the Transport Canada “Standards for float homes and liveaboard vessels in Victoria Harbour”, a float home means a structure incorporating a flotation system intended for use or being used or occupied for residential purposes not primarily intended for or usable in navigation and does not include a watercraft designed or intended for navigation.” This prohibition should include barges or rafts with residential units or camping facilities.

Further, and without otherwise restricting the right to anchor a vessel which is part of the common law right of navigation and the provisions of The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 or otherwise, FOCA encourages MNRF to include provisions in this regulation related to minimum separation distances from developed shorelines, limits to the number of days that a person can camp on water at one location, and the distance that a person(s) must move their camping unit to a different location.

February 24, 2023: the province has posted a public comment period to the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) related to our meeting last March (see below) with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), and lake association representatives concerned about floating accommodations.

ERO posting #019-6590: “Proposal to amend Ontario Regulation 161/17 to the Public Lands Act to change the requirements for camping on water over Ontario’s public lands” is open for public comment until April 11, 2023. Of particular to those who participated in the meeting last year, proposed changes include the following responses to expressed concerns:

  • reduce # of days camping on water over public lands at one location in each calendar year to 7 days (not 21)
  • must then move to a different location 1 kilometer (not 100 meters) away
  • new condition to prohibit camping on water within 300 meters of a developed shoreline, including any waterfront structure, dock, boathouse, boat launch, etc.

In March 2022, the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNDMNRF) posted to the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO #019-5119) a Bulletin asking for public input on the same issue by April 19, 2022. The notice stated that no regulatory changes are being proposed at this time; this is described as a posting for consultation purposes to “inform consideration of potential future changes” to address concerns about these types of structures.

They are currently subject to no building, safety or environmental standards, and pay no property taxes.

In response to this situation, various routes of investigation are being pursued by FOCA and some of our member groups, including:

  1. Municipal jurisdiction – setting bylaws that prohibit or restrict the placement of these structures (see an update from the Township of Georgian Bay, below);
  2. Provincial jurisdiction – addressing the “camping on the water”  argument through possible amendments to the Public Lands Act (see the Update immediately below, about a meeting with FOCA and the Ministry);
  3. Federal jurisdiction – NOTE: at the April 12, 2022 meeting of the Ontario Recreational Boating Advisory Council (ON-RBAC), Transport Canada clarified that they consider these floating container structures as ‘vessels‘ which are therefore subject to the regulations of Pleasure Craft Licensing under the Canada Shipping Act 2001.

In March 2022, the Ministry sought input on floating accommodations on waterways over Ontario public lands. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF, previously MNDMNRF) held a virtual meeting with FOCA and other concerned member representatives on March 28, 2022. The meeting outlined the current Public Lands Act regulatory framework, and provided an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.

FOCA members can login below to access the slides from this Ministry meeting, as well as related presentations to Severn Township and at the FOCA 2022 Spring Seminar:

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