Nova Scotia

'We have to get control': Halifax council requests staff report on houseboats

Halifax regional council asked staff on Tuesday to look into creating new rules for floating homes. The motion called for a report on "both houseboats and docked structures to regulate land use and building standards to ensure fair and safe use of the buildings."

Cottage-size building on a floating dock in Lake Micmac in 2018 sparked concerns

Building permits were not required to build this micro home that floats on Lake Micmac in Dartmouth in 2018. (Pam Berman/CBC)

Halifax regional council asked staff on Tuesday to look into creating new rules for floating homes.

The motion called for a report on "both houseboats and docked structures to regulate land use and building standards to ensure fair and safe use of the buildings."

A cottage-size building on a floating dock was constructed in 2018 off a lot along Lake Micmac in Dartmouth.

People who live in the area raised concerns, but the local councillor found out the structure is not covered by any government regulations.

"Federal officials said, 'Well, it's not a vessel," said Coun. Tony Mancini. "And the province said, 'Well, it's not attached to the bottom of the lake,' so it doesn't have any authority."

Mancini said the structures aren't inspected even though there are power and sewer connections.

"Having no regulations just does not make sense," he said.

Fear houseboats 'harbinger of things to come'

Coun. David Hendsbee said the city needs to get a handle on the situation because the same company that built the floating home along Lake Micmac has bought a lot in West Porters Lake, which has caught the attention of local residents.

"They're worried this is a harbinger of things to come, that there will be houseboats docked along the sandy coast bar in West Porters Lake,"  said Hendsbee, who represents the area.

He hopes rules in other jurisdictions will be reviewed. Houseboats are popular on the West Coast in Vancouver and Victoria, as well as in Muskoka, a cottage country in Ontario.

The councillor for the Purcells Cove area is worried about a situation in his area where a structure was built on top of a wharf.

"We have to get control because we could have them stacked side by side," said Coun. Steve Adams.

But one councillor warned there should be a clear definition of a houseboat.

Lower Sackville Coun. Paul Russell wondered if the new rules would apply to a boat permanently docked.

About the Author

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

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