Province proposes new residential options for agricultural land

Lana Popham

THE Province is proposing more residential flexibility for people living in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) as outlined in a new policy intentions paper released January 27 by the Ministry of Agriculture.

In order to support farmers and non-farmers living in the ALR, government is considering regulatory changes to enable landowners to have both a principal residence and a small secondary residence on their property, provided they have approval from their local government. ALR property owners would not be required to apply to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for approval.

“We are continuing to do the work necessary to help farmers farm and protect farmland for future generations,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture. “The ALR is B.C.’s best food-producing land, and is just 5% of our province’s land base – it’s so important for food security. The proposed changes, if implemented, would provide additional residential flexibility in the ALR. Publicly sharing this proposed policy direction now gives those interested an opportunity to review and comment, leading to better outcomes.”

She noted: “We recognize that rules by the previous government do not reflect the needs of British Columbians and as a result, we are proposing to allow more flexibility for small secondary residences. Under the proposal, a small secondary residence would be available for farm-workers, family members or anyone else, provided there is local government approval.”

The new ALR residential options and specific conditions with each option such as size, siting, and quantity being considered by government include:

* garden suites, guest houses or carriage suites;

* accommodation above an existing building;

* manufactured homes; and

* permitting a principal residence to be constructed in addition to a manufactured home that was formerly a principal residence.

The Province would not require the small secondary residence be a manufactured home only for an immediate family member, as was the case in regulations under the previous government. The new residential options do not include reconsideration of the maximum size of a principal residence.

The ALC will remain the decision maker for additional residences for farm use in the ALR. Any new permitted secondary residences should be registered with the ALC for long-term land-use planning purposes.

The policy intensions paper resulted from collaborative work with the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the ALC and the BC Agriculture Council, and responds to feedback the ministry heard during recent public consultations. The policy direction is also guided by the results of the Minister of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on ALR Revitalization. People are asked to provide their feedback by April 17 on the residential options via email: [email protected] (mailto:[email protected])

While the ministry finalizes its policy direction, the grandfathering period for manufactured homes in the ALR for immediate family members has been extended to December 31. This means people wishing to place manufactured homes on their ALR property will be required to get the necessary permits and authorizations from their local governments, but do not have to apply to the ALC for approval.

Jill Azanza of K & M Farms in Abbotsford said: “Farmers need farmland to farm. Farmers that are growing and looking to the future support measures like these. This change will help young and new farmers get established on the land, and help retiring farmers stay on the farm.”

Maja Tait, President of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, said: “Local governments support greater flexibility for residential arrangements that support farming on ALR land. I appreciate the work the Ministry of Agriculture has undertaken on this issue in consultation with local government and others. This next phase will provide an opportunity to refine the concepts developed, and I encourage local governments to provide input to the ministry’s process.”

According to Jennifer Dyson, Chair, Agricultural Land Commission, “this approach by the Province helps the ALC be less reactive and more focused on proactively seeking opportunities to improve agricultural land utilization, encourage farming and address emerging and strategic issues.”

Quick Facts:

* During the 2019 public engagement, 613 British Columbians registered to participate in the eight in-person sessions.

* The ministry received 1,580 online survey submissions, 87 personal submissions and 19 formal submissions from associations, farmers’ institutes and local governments.

* Farmers have always had the option to build additional residences in the ALR (two, three or more), provided they are needed for farming and have approval from the local government and the ALC.

* The primary use of ALR land is agriculture, therefore additional residences must minimize disturbance to farm land.

Learn More:

Read the Ministry of Agriculture Policy Intentions Paper: Residential Flexibility in the ALR: 

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/agricultural-land-and-environment/agricultural-land-reserve

Read the What We Heard report from the 2019 public engagement: 

https://engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc/impact/supporting-b-c-farmers-results/

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