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Housing restrictions in Agricultural Land Reserve eased

Victoria is easing the rules around allowing secondary residences on properties in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Options for an additional small secondary home have been added to regulations, allowing farmers and ALR landowners to have both a principal residence and small secondary residence on their property with a streamlined approval process. Only permissions from local government or First Nations government will be required, and there will be no application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).

The additional residence can be used for housing extended family, agritourism accommodation, housing for farm labour or a rental property for supplemental income. There is 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, in a news release. “We recognize the unique needs of established farming families, those new to farming and those living in the ALR who don’t farm.”

The Opposition Liberals are even supporting the move, however are still critical of the NDP’s nixing most of the changes the previous Liberal government made to the ALR.

“This is a prime lesson about the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’” Opposition Agriculture and Food Critic Ian 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.”

Examples of flexible housing options permitted under the regulation include, but are not limited to:

  • 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 changes respond to the feedback received in regional engagement sessions and to the ministry’s policy intentions paper, where ALR landowners made it clear they wanted this type of residential flexibility.

“We took the time to listen and come up with solutions that will help both farmers and non-farmers alike, while protecting the integrity of our valuable agricultural land,” Popham said. “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. 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 new rules come into effect Dec. 31, 2021.

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