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More housing options available for local farmers

The government says the changes are in response to the feedback received in regional engagement sessions and to the ministry's policy intentions paper, where ALR landowners made it clear they wanted more residential flexibility
delta bc farm houses
All three homes on the Ryall farm on Westham Island will be located on the same farm home plate.

The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture this week announced new rules aimed at allowing property owners in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) to have increased housing flexibility.

Options for an additional small secondary home have been added to the regulations, allowing farmers and ALR landowners to have both a principal residence and small secondary residence on their property with a streamlined approval process.

A news release notes that only permissions from local government or First Nations government will be required, and there will be no application needed to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).

The additional residence can be used for housing extended family, agri-tourism accommodation, housing for farm labour or a rental property for supplemental income.

There is also no longer a requirement that additional residences must be used by the landowner or immediate family members.

“Our government's goal from the outset has been to protect farmland for future generations, so British Columbians can have a secure local food system and our communities can prosper,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries. “We recognize the unique needs of established farming families, those new to farming and those living in the ALR who don't farm.”

Examples of flexible housing options permitted under the regulation include, but are not limited to, garden suites, guest houses or carriage suites and accommodation above an existing building, manufactured homes or permitting a principal residence to be constructed in addition to a manufactured home that was formerly a principal residence.

The province took the time to listen and come up with solutions that will help both farmers and non-farmers alike, while protecting the integrity of agricultural land, said Popham.

“We hope this regulatory change will assist new farmers starting their businesses, encourage landowners to partner with new farmers to get their land into production, and address the needs of British Columbian families,” she said. “Having an option for housing opens up new doors to families and provides more opportunities for more agricultural land to go into production, increasing our province's food security.”

Farming families will continue to be able to apply to the ALC for multiple, larger homes if they are necessary for farming purposes, the government notes.

The new rules come into effect Dec. 31, 2021.

Delta South MLA Ian Paton, the Opposition Agriculture and Food Critic, said he’s pleased the NDP government has finally come to its senses on the issue of housing flexibility in the ALR.

“This is a prime lesson about the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’” said Paton. “It’s somewhat laughable that Agriculture Minister Lana Popham is touting these changes as ‘new’ when they simply correct the mistakes the NDP made all on their own. The fact is, they didn’t consult on Bill 52 in the first place and rammed through legislation that didn’t work for farmers. Then, after they got backlash, they dragged farmers through three years’ worth of reviews and feedback exercises that destroyed their dreams and cost them precious time and money.”

Paton also said he applauds the many farmers and advocates in the agriculture industry who made their feelings known and helped bring about the changes announced.

Delta city council recently gave its support for an application to build a second additional farmhouse on Westham Island.

Owned by the Ryall family, the property on Tamboline Road contains an existing farm house and a second farm house, both of which are to be retained, and the new 1,767-square-foot house will be for family members working the farm.

Council also recently gave support for an application to replace an additional farm house at a River Road farm with a new 3,229-square-foot home.

Also located in the ALR, that property owned by the Sahota family is used for blueberry production.

A Delta staff report notes the proposal has demonstrated a net benefit to the farm operation and would have no negative impact on agricultural capacity of the property.

Both those applications had been forwarded to the ALC for approval.