Waterfront Property Owners and Rural Economic Development

Waterfront property owners, both seasonal and permanent, are a significant force in Ontario. The annual property taxes alone on the estimated $75 billion of privately-owned residential cottage real estate is over $700 million, directly supporting local governance, programs, and infrastructure in more than 200 rural Ontario municipalities. “Cottage”-related household expenditures amount to billions of dollars every year.

image: excerpt of page 18 of FOCA WPO ReportDespite this significant footprint, there has never been a comprehensive review of this sector, nor any strategic planning related to the how this sector of our rural population could be more thoughtfully embedded into economic development.

In 2017-18, FOCA undertook a study to articulate the significance of waterfront property owners (WPO) as vital economic contributors to rural communities in Ontario. This study speaks to the opportunity of having WPO  contribute to and support the local economy beyond their role as “consumers.”

WPO represent a significant number of total residents in many rural Ontario municipalities, which are otherwise facing increasing out-migration to urban centres.

image: excerpt of FOCA WPO Report page 10This study features eastern Ontario in particular, where tourism and a thriving cottage industry play key economic roles and where seasonal residents are spending more time at their second homes, with some choosing to relocate there, permanently. Within the eastern Ontario study region, consisting of 9 upper-tier municipalities, it was estimated that in 2012 there were 95,587 waterfront property owners, representing 35.4% of total residential properties. Based on this significant presence, municipalities of this region were the primary focus of this study.

Key Recommendations:

For Waterfront Property Owners (WPO):

  • WPO can take a more active role in establishing or participating in local economic development committees in their local municipality.

For the Federation of Ontario Cottagers Associations (FOCA):

  • FOCA has a role in bridging the gap and build stronger engagement between WPO and municipal interests, to better connect WPO with local economic development personnel, programs, and chambers of commerce.
  • FOCA has a role in fostering local networking opportunities to connect WPO with peer mentors who have successfully made the shift to rural work/life, as well as rural economic development organizations that can support and connect WPO with local opportunities.

Recommendations for municipal government:

  • Continue to invest in rural high-speed internet service and other year-round services (social services, infrastructure),  to increase the appeal for WPO to relocate (or start) their businesses in rural communities.
  • To better include WPO in rural economic development initiatives, the co-creation of local economic development advisory committees with local WPO could bridge the communication gap and help to lobby the interests of WPO in community economic development (CED).image: cover of FOCA WPO Report 2018

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For a digital copy of the complete 56-page report, please contact communications@foca.on.ca.

Recent News

May 14, 2018 – Study shows some 2nd homeowners eyeing permanent residency at the cottage in future   (Bracebridge Examiner)

April 24, 2018 – Province supports project tackling cellular dead zones across Eastern Ontario  Ontario Government commits $71 million to improve cell service across the region (Canada Newswire)

Other related reports

May 2018 – OECD’s Rural Policy 3.0 — a framework to support rural economic development

  • “Rural regions will play a central role in meeting the major global opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.”
  • “Rural regions make a significant contribution to national prosperity and well-being across OECD countries.”
  • “Rural regions have diversified economies, beyond agriculture and other natural
    resource-based sectors.”


Terry ReesWaterfront Property Owners and Rural Economic Development