Waterfront Property Owners and Rural Economic Development

WHAT FOCA SEES: Waterfront property owners (WPO), 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. Until now, and despite this significant footprint, there has never been a comprehensive review of this sector, or any strategic planning related to how this sector of our rural population could be more thoughtfully embedded into regional planning and local conomic development.

October 18, 2022 – NEW report released by FOCA: The Economic Impacts of Waterfront Property Households in Ontario:

The report concludes that an estimated $11.44 billion was spent in 2021 by a quarter of a million waterfront property households across Ontario.

The report was authored by Avaanz Ltd using Statistics Canada’s Interprovincial Input-Output Model, 2022 property data from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), and 2021 Statistics Canada annual average household spending data. See key data, below.

Click the image at the side (or here) to open an infographic summarizing the report’s findings. 

Read FOCA’s Media Release about the report (download PDF, 1 page)

FOCA Members are invited to login below to download a digital copy of the 27-page report, or contact FOCA to request a copy, which includes a breakdown by upper tier municipalities.

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Members are encouraged to register to join us at the FOCA 2022 Fall Seminar for Associations on November 19th by webinar, to celebrate the report’s release and hear from the report author.

Key data from the new Economic Impact report:

  • 248,763 waterfront properties across the province
  • $11.44 billion spent by all waterfront property households in 2021
  • $45,994 average waterfront property household spending (as a % of Statistics Canada’s 2021 annual household spending; see Appendix C of the report for details)
  • $6.91 million in labour income, $11.66 million in GDP generated by these dollars spent.
  • Over 150,000 jobs are generated annually in Ontario by the contributions of waterfront property household spending.
  • For every 10 waterfront properties located in a community, on average 6.3 jobs are created in the Province of Ontario, of which 5.4 jobs are in the waterfront property community itself.

Related Media Coverage:

Earlier Regional Report:

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.”

Click the image at the side to download an Infographic summarizing some key findings from the 2018 Report (PDF, 1 page)

Existing Users Log In

FOCA Members: Need your Login password? Contact Us!

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WPO represent a significant number of total residents in many rural Ontario municipalities, which are otherwise facing increasing out-migration to urban centres. This 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 in the 2018 Regional Report:

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

image: asterix button

For a digital copy of the complete 56-page 2018 report, please contact communications@foca.on.ca.

Media Coverage of the Issue / 2018 Report release

August 2021 – Muskoka is hiring (Muskoka Builders Association)

June 13, 2021 – Top tech tips for working at the cottage (Toronto Sun)

October 22, 2020 – Cottage country entrepreneurs, featured in the FOCA Economic report, win “New Canadian Entrepreneur of the Year Award” from Local Chamber of Commerce!

September 24, 2020 – ‘Busiest year ever’: Hot rural real estate market isn’t cooling off  Local realtors have said now that people can work from home or are only having to go into the office once or twice a week, they have more flexibility in where they live, which is helping to drive demand in rural areas. (Insideottawavalley.com)

September 16, 2020 – How is small town/rural Ontario faring in terms of economic impacts through the pandemic? FOCA’s colleagues at the Rural Ontario Institute weigh in (CBC Ontario Morning; audio)

July 2020 – FOCA is participating on the Muskoka Economic Recovery Task Force. Learn more here.

July 27, 2020 – Working-from-home policies drive cottage sales (Toronto Sun)

July 18, 2019 – Globe & Mail – “Advances in internet coverage make it easier to stay connected at the cottage.” – includes mention of the FOCA WPO report.

November 2018 – OPPI Ontario Planning Journal – Vol.33, No.6 is all about “Rural Ontario” – see the article about FOCA’s WPO Report on pages 5-6 (PDF, 6 pages) of the November-December edition.

August 30, 2018 – Yahoo News – “Endless summer? – Canadian getaway towns embrace year-round living.” This story was also featured in the Christian Science Monitor on August 30, 2018.

July 30, 2018 – Huffington Post – “Telecommuting in Canada: Working from the cottage or a winter home.”

July 29, 2018 – CTV News – “More Canadians choosing to work from cottages, vacation homes.”

July 29, 2018 – Financial Post – Business – “Canadians increasingly putting the ‘remote’ in working remotely.”

July 29, 2018 – The Chronicle Journal – “Canadians increasingly putting the ‘remote’ in working remotely.” (Canadian Press, Ross Marowitz)

July 13, 2018 – CBC Ontario Morning with Wei Chen – “How cottage owners can contribute to local communities” (related interview starts at minute 34:00)

July 11, 2018 – CBC Ottawa Morning – “Could cottagers save the province’s small towns?” (audio recording 06:18)

July 10, 2018 – Haliburton County Echo: Opinion – “Making connections

July 9, 2018 – KawarthaNow.com – “Business Now: Owners of Colborne Street Gallery in Fenelon Falls Featured in Toronto Star Story about Economic Impact of Cottagers.”

July 9, 2018 – MyKawartha.com – “Waterfront property owners are an untapped resource as drivers of local economies, study shows.”

July 7, 2018 – Toronto Star: Business Journal – “Can cottagers keep Ontario’s lake regions afloat?

Earlier and Related News

August 8, 2019 – Rural communities seek progress for Canadians  (Federation of Canadian Municipalities; Municipal World)

November 23, 2018 – The Future is Rural  (Video) JLT Canada Public Sector Summit 2018

June 27, 2018 –  The latest data on foreign ownership shows that the highest concentration isn’t in Toronto — it’s in cottage country and border towns (TVO)  “…municipalities are effectively undercounting the number of people who will rely on public services — not a small concern given how dependent some communities are on the property taxes from seasonal properties.

May 29, 2018 – Rural challenges, national opportunity. Shaping the future  of rural Canada (Federation of Canadian Municipalities, FCM)


Rural Canada: Shaping the future (Municipal World)

Rural Canada contributes 30 percent of GDP  (The Western Producer)

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)

May 31, 2018 – Vermont will pay you $10,000 to move there and work remotely (Quartz at Work)

U.S. Towns lure young professionals back home with financial incentives  (CBS/ Linked In)

Other related reports:

Rural Business Ownership Succession (Rural Ontario Institute, 2017)
40% of small business owners are planning to exit their business in the next five years. In rural areas, close to half of businesses do not have a formal business plan or succession plan. Business closures, and the consequent employment loss and empty buildings on main streets, could reduce the economy and vitality of rural communities.

Entrepreneurial in-migration brings potential benefits to rural business transition, whether they are buying a business from a retiring owner or developing a brand-new business.

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