Halifax request to province could sink floating home plans

The municipality wants a ban in place while it looks into possible regulations

Halifax council unanimously passed a motion Tuesday to send a letter to the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs asking for an immediate moratorium on floating homes.

Coun. David Hendsbee introduced the motion. He believes there is an urgent need for such a moratorium. In the letter, he wrote that he’s worried Halifax could see more structures pop up on frozen lakes over the winter or when the ice breaks in the spring as developers try to get ahead of any pending regulations.

While putting the motion to the floor, Hendsbee said he wants an immediate moratorium to allow municipalities to “get the legislative authorities and regulations in place to deal with this pending phenomenon.”

A floating home is “a structure incorporating a floatation system, intended for use or being used or occupied for residential purposes, containing one dwelling unit only, not primarily intended for, or usable in, navigation and does not include a water craft designed or intended for navigation,” according to a definition in the British Columbia Float Home Standard that was cited in Hendsbee’s letter.

A staff report is underway to decide what role, if any, the city should play in regulating the floating structures. The report should be completed within the next two to three months, said Halifax’s chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé.

Igor Yuschenko, who has already built a floating home on Dartmouth’s Lake Micmac, said he would welcome regulations. However, he is against a moratorium and believes it would be illegal.

“I don’t think that they have a jurisdiction,” said Yuschenko. “I’m not sure whether the province can actually exercise this right.”

In late 2018, Yuschenko and his business partner, Scott Brogan, purchased a narrow strip of empty land on Porters Lake, and are considering building floating homes or other developments on it. Some residents in the surrounding area have expressed concerns about seeing a community of floating homes on the lake.

Right now, municipal rules only apply to anything built up to the edge of a lake and the province has authority over the lakes themselves. Floating homes only have to comply with environmental standards, or transportation standards if the home is mobile.

Hendsbee said while he isn’t sure of their reach, he suggested that the Halifax Port Authority, which only has jurisdiction over the harbour, be involved in regulation.

“I’m worried about the lakes, rivers, and streams. Not just the saltwater bodies,” said Hendsbee.

B.C. and Ontario currently have thriving floating home communities.

Stefan Sinclair-Fortin

Stefan Sinclair-Fortin

Stefan is a journalist who lives in Halifax. When he isn’t staring at a screen, he can be found falling off of Nova Scotia’s granite cliffs or frigid waves.

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