Pilot program on Williams Lake to offer a way around housing shortage and complex residential zoning rules
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Houseboats – what could be more pleasant than floating on a calm lake, relaxing on your own front deck? Well, the dream might be a little closer for some lucky Haligonians. Halifax will now join urban centres like Vancouver and Toronto in offering houseboat mooring for onboard living. Williams Lake is set to be part of the pilot project.
HalifaxHouseboatHomes (HHH) is a partnership between local developers, urban planners, and marine suppliers, to think “outside the box” about where to locate new housing. HHH plans to launch (quite literally) a program to offer berths to houseboats on Williams Lake.
“One example of jurisdiction overlap is ‘through-holes’. These are holes in the hull to access water for toilets, showers, and sinks. HRM is rightly concerned about the potential effect on lake levels, especially on Williams Lake”.
There are multiple legal jurisdictions involved— the federal government for navigation, the province for shorelines, and HRM for land access— a special coordinator has been assigned to navigate the legal waters. Liv Keeless has been assigned by HRM to insure the project conforms to the complex rules. “One example of jurisdiction overlap is ‘through-holes'”, Keeless says. “These are holes in the hull to access water for toilets, showers, and sinks. HRM is rightly concerned about the potential effect on the lake levels, but federal law has nothing to say on the matter. And of course grey water should not be returned to the lake.”
Potential occupants of houseboats will have to supply their own boats. Some may be more “upscale”, with both lower and upper floors, and others may be more rustic. The smallest boats allowed will be the size of a standard “tiny home”, but the largest will accomodate up to 4 residents. People will be encouraged to be creative when designing their boats.
Williams Lake was chosen for its access to transportation, its natural beauty, and for supports in the surrounding community. The houseboats will be tethered to a floating wharf to allow pedestrian traffic between boats. Availability will be on a first-come, first-served basis, though allowances will be made for young people and those in economic need.
Planning has been proceeding apace since the idea was first “floated” in 2019. Now that permits have been secured, concerns relate to how to best service the boats – providing clean water, electricity, sanitary services, and garbage collection. Houseboat residents will be encouraged to run propane generators – it is thought that the noise will not have a large impact on either wildlife or area residents. Sanitation will be in the form of composting toilets, which residents are discouraged from emptying into the lake.
Keeless notes “Human nature being what it is, we know houseboats may be abandoned or fall victim to fire. We are hoping these would be removed at the owner’s expense.”
“The last thing we want is to have a bunch of teenagers living on the lake, throwing trash into the water, scaring wildlife, and polluting the neighbourhood with noise and uncollected garbage”
A local rate-payers association has noted that night time lighting will have an effect on the movement of wildlife. “Our loons can barely manage to fledge a single chick each year” says local bird expert Preston Violet. “They will be shut out of their preferred nesting spots for the foreseeable future”.
During the public engagement process, locals have been vocal about issues they see with the floating homes. “The last thing we want is to have a bunch of teenagers living on the lake, throwing trash into the water, scaring wildlife, and polluting the neighbourhood with noise and uncollected garbage” says Keeless.
Though consumption of alcohol is prohibited on pontoon boats in NS, lodgers in the houseboats will be able to treat the boats as homes, with the legal right to consume alcohol, invite guests, and host parties. Noise bylaws will mandate that noisy partying and the playing of loud music end at 11pm, but project coordinators admit this will be hard to enforce, given the remote location and lack of access for police. For this reason regions such as Kelowna have outlawed houseboat parties for now.
If the project goes as planned, there may soon be a parking lot at the water’s edge for houseboat residents who own vehicles, and to facilitate garbage collection and recycling. The houseboat project will be reviewed in a year’s time to assess impact on the lake – meaning that next April 1st we’ll know it was all part of our annual WLCC April Fools fun.
For more information on how you can help support Williams Lake visit our Membership Page.
Top marks to those who spotted “Liv Keeless” as a houseboaters motto. See you next year!
For more foolishness, visit the world famous WLCC April Fools Archive!