What are floating accommodations?

Any watercraft that is supplied and equipped for overnight use is considered a floating accommodation, including:

  • barges with a cabin
  • floating cottage (units built on rafts versus a hull)
  • houseboats
  • larger vessels with sleeping quarters

It is evident that changes are happening on Ontario’s waterways. The use of waterways by watercraft has grown to include floating accommodations which can accommodate longer stays, similar to those of a cottage. 

Some of the common concerns about floating accommodations include:

  • logistics for emergency services
  • need for building permits
  • time and length of use
  • potential for limiting access to public lands and waterways
  • increasing environmental impacts on waterways
  • property tax considerations
  • wastewater management

Public Meeting held on February 21, 2024

Zoning By-Law Amendment, Floating Accommodations

In response to a report from MHBC Planning at the November 15, 2023 Planning and Development Committee meeting, members directed staff to update the Township’s Zoning By-law to establish provisions for Floating Accommodations. A virtual Public Meeting was held on February 21, 2024 at 9:00 a.m. to allow for public comment on the amended draft Zoning By-law. 

Following that meeting, the draft by-law was revised to reflect public comments. The Planning report was submitted to Council for review on March 6, 2024 with Council supporting the approval of the Zoning By-law Amendment. 

View the Zoning By-law Amendment to Regulate Floating Accommodations

Purpose of the Zoning By-law Amendment

The purpose of the Zoning By-law Amendment was to update the Township’s Comprehensive Zoning By-law 2010-65 to establish provisions to regulate Floating Accommodations using provincial regulations and definitions. 

Description of the changes to the Zoning By-Law
  • Section 1 Administration and Interpretation
    • clarify that the Zoning By-law applies to all lands, islands, watercourses, and navigable watercourses within the jurisdiction of the Corporation of the Township of Severn
  • Section 3 General Provisions
    • explicitly state that floating accommodations are not “Shoreline Structures” and are a prohibited use in any zone
  • Section 11 Definitions
    • revisions and additions to various existing definitions together with new definitions including Boat, Boathouse, Camping Unit, Floating Accommodation, Marina, Vessel, and Watercraft Equipped for Overnight Accommodation

Who regulates floating accommodations? 

Regulation of use is a complex issue involving all levels of government.

Transport Canada


  • oversees navigable waterways, watercraft safety, and defines the requirements regarding vessels and the accompanying need for licence and registration
Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry (NDMNRF)




  • must consider environmental concerns, impact on local residents, and enforcement of municipal by-laws where the Township has jurisdiction, including noise complaints
Parks Canada - Trent Severn Waterway (TSW)


  • in addition to water management Parks Canada - TSW regulates and governs lands within their jurisdiction through a permitting process

What laws currently regulate floating accommodations on waterways?

Notice of Mooring Restrictions (Parks Canada)

Parks Canada released a Notice of Mooring Restrictions ((pursuant to Sections 4(2) and 40(4) of the Historic Canals Regulations) effective May 1, 2024. This notice relates to the mooring of floating accommodations on the Trent-Severn Waterway.

The notice will allow Parks Canada to exercise greater management control over floating accommodations. These new measures are in line with recent changes to the Province of Ontario’s regulations. These measures have been put in place following a period of public consultation. Under the notice, vessels may moor without Parks Canada authorization if they fall under the exemptions set out in the restrictions.

Many mooring situations remain the same and will not require special authorization, including the current regime for mooring at Ontario Waterway lock stations. Shoreline owners may continue to moor their vessels adjacent to their properties without the requirement for a mooring permit. Mooring of vessels at licenced marinas will also not require a permit.

The Notice of Mooring Restriction, along with a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions, is readily available on the Trent-Severn Waterway website at the following link: Notice of Mooring Restrictions

This resource can assist boaters in understanding the new regulations and determining if they meet the exceptions.  

For more information about the Trent-Severn Waterway, visit their website or follow them on social media @TrentSevernNHS.

Parks Canada contact

Karen Feeley
A/External Relations Manager, Ontario Waterways
Parks Canada / Government of Canada
P.O. Box 567, 2155 Ashburnham Drive
Peterborough ON K9J 6Z6
Email: karen.feeley@pc.gc.ca
Ontario Regulation 161/17 

O. Reg 161/17 regulates the type of structure or things that may be used on public lands, as long as the conditions in the regulation are followed.

Structures include 'camping unit' had been defined as:

  • a structure or vehicle that may be used for camping purposes or as an outdoor accommodation and includes a tent, trailer, tent-trailer, recreational vehicle, camper-back and any watercraft equipped for overnight accommodation.

O. Reg 161/17 was recently amended to clarify that floating accommodations cannot be placed or used for outdoor accommodation or camping purposes on public land covered by water. Ontario Regulation 326/94 was also amended to make the same clarification for non-residents camping on public land in northern Ontario.

Both amending regulations were filed with the Registrar on June 20, 2023 and are effective as of July 1, 2023.

 Public Lands Act
The Public Lands Act provides for the creation and management of restricted areas by the Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry in parts of Ontario without municipal authority. In a restricted area, permits from NDMNRF are required undertake specific activities, whether this occurs on Crown or private lands. Activities that require a permit from MNR are identified in the development plan or guidelines that refer to each restricted area. 

Who can residents contact to voice their concerns?

The majority of the waterways in Severn are under the federal jurisdiction of Parks Canada. These include:

  • Severn River including Gloucester Pool and Little Lake
  • Maclean Lake
  • Otter Lake

Residents who would like to submit comments or voice their concerns can contact Adam Chambers, Member of Parliament for Simcoe North:

Main office – Midland

504 Dominion Avenue
Midland, Ontario
L4R 1P8
Phone: 705-527-7654
Email: adam.chambers@parl.gc.ca


575 West Street South
Suite 12
Orillia, Ontario
L3V 7N6
Phone: 705-327-0513


Adam Chambers, MP
Parliament of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6* 

*Mail may be sent postage-free to the Ottawa parliamentary address.

Subscribe to this page

Select the “Subscribe to this page” button located to the right of the page. You'll receive an email notification every time we update the content for this page. This is an easy way to stay informed.