Why float home owners in Scarborough Bluffs are worried about the neighborhood’s future

Residents of a floating home neighborhood in Scarborough Bluffs have been without a lease for the past month and some say they fear they will have to leave if they cannot resolve the issue.

About two dozen homes, some worth more than $1 million, are tucked into a corner of Bluuffer’s Park Marina, where they sit on concrete barges moored to a dock. They cannot be easily moved because, unlike traditional houseboats, they do not have a motor.

“It’s scary,” said Sharron Lazar, who has lived in her floating home for about 15 years. “I don’t know what kind of house we would move into. I’d rather not think about it. I can’t imagine.”

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) owns the lots, which are managed by the city and leased to owners. These leases expired at the end of April and although talks between DFO and the city are ongoing, so far new agreements have not been offered to the owners.

DFO owns and leases other water lots in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, but it is unclear how many of those leases it is renegotiating.

Sharron Lazar has lived in her houseboat for about 15 years. She says the lack of a new lease is “frightening”. (Mike Smee/CBC)

Meanwhile, the local councilor says he shares the owners’ concerns.

“They don’t have the security that a long-term lease would have,” Coun said. Gary Crawford, representing Ward 20, Scarborough Southwest.

“They are an integral part of this community and I fully support them for being here…and hopefully we can resolve this issue around the lease soon so we can get back to some kind of normality.”

DFO leases the water lots from the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), Crawford told CBC Toronto. The city manages the land for the TRCA, which leases it to the marina. The marina, in turn, leases the grounds from the owners for a mooring fee – around $800 per month.

There are approximately 24 houseboats moored at the marina. Most of them are two-story and have all the conveniences of landlocked houses. When they hit the real estate market, they sell for nearly $1 million. (Toronto Floating Homes)

None of the parties to the lease negotiations, DFO, the city and the TRCA, provided CBC News with details of those talks, or indicated when they might agree on new leases. It’s also unclear which body would make the final decision to force the owners out.

The houses have stood at the marina since 2001. They were originally one-story houses built on the Toronto Islands to accommodate officials who would have been in the city for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Toronto lost this offer, the houses were moved to their current location and put up for sale by the city.

Over the years, the owners have added second floors, terraces and other amenities.

According to a Royal Lepage website, two of the homes are for sale, but only one of the listings has an asking price: $850,000. The two-story, two-bedroom, two-bath home measures 1,200 square feet. Owners can expect to pay around $800 in property taxes, according to the listing, and a “mooring fee” at Bluffer’s Park Marina of $811 per month. It is this royalty which is currently in question and which will be determined in the new lease.

The floating homes are nestled at the back of Bluuffer’s Park Marina in Scarborough. Many also have a small patch of waterfront land. (Radio-Canada News)

A second floating home, which is not yet listed, costs $965,000, according to consultant Paul Peic’s Toronto Float Homes website.

While some worry that new leases will be prohibitively expensive or that they could be evicted without notice, others like John and Ingrid Whyte say they are not worried.

“I’m sure they’ll solve the problem, everyone wants a marina here,” said John Whyte, who has lived in their houseboat for seven years.

Com. Gary Crawford, who represents Ward 20, Scarborough Southwest, says he’s confident the city, conservation authority and federal government will come to a fair deal soon. (Sue Reid/CBC)

“There have always been fee increases. We expect them to be reasonable. I have no reason to think they won’t be, so I’m not too worried about them.”

Crawford also says he doesn’t think the neighborhood is at risk.

“It’s something that I’m sure won’t happen. We really appreciate them being part of our community here.