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

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?

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. 

Request for municipal comments

In 2022, the NDMNRF asked municipalities for their input on “camping” on waterways and the use of floating accommodations on Ontario’s public lands. The Township of Severn submitted comments in response to this notice. Although no regulatory changes were proposed at that time proposed these comments submitted by Severn may help to inform future changes which would then be subject to a public consultation process.

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.

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