A new use has developed on the waterways – floating cottages. Unlike a houseboat, they are intended to be used for living space rather than travel. They are marketed as homes, but can be a navigational hazard, a visual scar and an environmental risk. Surprisingly,  they are not subject to any building, safety or environmental regulations, and pay no property taxes. Since floating cottages are not on land, municipal by-laws do not apply to them, such as by-laws relating to noise, sewage disposal or night light.

Gloucester Pool Cottagers’ Association included this photo of a floating cottage made of shipping containers in its presentation to Severn Township Council on March 23, 2022.

Friends of Muskoka is deeply concerned about the prospect of floating cottages being moored on Muskoka’s lakes and rivers, and their negative impact on waterfront views and character, as well as potential impacts from wastewater and grey water spilling into the water.

Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNDMNRF) is reviewing possible regulatory approaches to floating accommodations as a form of ‘camping’ on the waterways over Ontario’s public lands. Details are here.

The Canadian Environmental Law Association issued this bulletin on April 19th stating “CELA opposes the use of floating accommodations on waterways and recommends camping on watercraft that are not vessels be prohibited.”

Township of Muskoka Lakes is recommending to the MNDMNRF that floating accommodations be prohibited (see this report).

The Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Association is investigating various mechanisms for regulating floating accommodations, and has met with the MNDMNRF.

Although the MNDMNRF’s comment period expired on April 19th, you may wish to provide comments to: Public.Lands@ontario.ca