Let me ask you a question. What is a camel? There is no need for a lengthy explanation for the…. truth is this.
A camel is a horse designed by a committee. A committee is struck for two reasons. One is because those in charge can’t see the road ahead. Or they want to make a policy change without putting their name on it up front. They also want as much consultation with as many groups as possible so they can say we instead of I.
The review came about for a few reasons. One to take the two zone regions and bring it back to one region which I agree with.
Two there was increasing pressure from the farming groups to curb mega mansions and leaving the land go fallow creating a shortage of farmland and creating a two tier system. Personally I think if mega housing were to allow for building up instead of using a larger footprint there might be some support. For me the real issue is the mega house and no farming. It is like poaching because the owners in many cases have farm status and that has local tax implications.
The other issue was ending the 1973 covenant for land severance that allowed for farmhouse severance for existing farmers to retire on the land and a new farmer to build a home. That covenant ends December 31 2020
Alas it did not end there. Opening the ALR to a committee review is like opening the Canadian Constitution.
Everything goes on the table.
Remember a few years ago changes allowed for agri-tourism, conforming use. What started as a fruit stand, or a cider operation or even worker housing facilities has in some cases included eateries and even packinghouses.
So now we have proposed secondary housing and carriage houses. First I have asked some farmers and those close to the industry for their interpretation of what proposed changes mean. I got a variety of answers. A variety of answers to me does not bode well for a clear vision of meaning or intent.
The common thread was not that additional dwellings or carriage houses would be for residential rentals. Permission would be dependent on enhanced value to the farm. Meaning a dwelling for a family member or worker housing.
I have some questions of my own here. How much of a foot print will see a reduction in production space?
Some want housing for aging parents. Some want housing such as a carriage house above the garage or workshop. Where does that end?
Remember additional structures have to be serviced by local governance. Farm taxation is different than municipal so who pays the true cost for service? As you can see we are opening a Pandora’s box. Not in the short term necessarily but long term. In my opinion.
Here is an example of pushing the boundaries. John Doe and his brother buy a farm from their aging parents. Well if they both own the farm they both want a home there. Initially there would be allowance for secondary housing. Fair enough. The brothers enter the agri tourism business which requires more structures for farm conforming use. Well they now need some worker housing taking more land out of production. Well John Doe dies and his brother sells the farm. What happens to all those structures? Will it see structural upgrades to encourage rentals like illegal suites?
There are cases where long time residents should remain due to special circumstances it is called grandfathering that is acceptable.
If additional structures end up residential it will increase the density of a neighborhood effecting everything from water to roads. This could have implications for the farm operation itself.
At present the additional housing regulations proposed for the most part need to be justified as enhancing the farm. We have seen things not work out as intended before.
The carriage house rental is of great concern to me as I think temptation often leads to abuse of what was intended.
We haven’t even begun to discuss environmental impact or capital investment cost and additional structures raising the cost of farms.
If we are going to maintain the ALR and we will for a reason I will mention in a moment we would do better to put younger farmers on the land, Invest in farm education and financing to make the operation viable.
Some say we need an adjustment in farmland pricing. That at the moment would be another Pandora’s Box.
What implication would it have on existing farmers who paid full price if land prices were devalued? It would not be good.
I am not opposed to changes and I am supportive of the ALR I also believe measures have to be taken to avoid unintended consequences.
The last item is this. The ALR has increased in popularity over the past two decades. At one time about 89% and the last survey I am aware of was 2014. That survey was around 95% of BC residents in support. With the trend toward a greener world I don’t see those numbers going down.
In the end there are more questions than answers and there is room for interpretation. I am not convinced this is heading in a positive direction. I think the government needs to make it clear to everyone what the changes are. The reason they are being made. Who pay and bares the burden of taxation. The rules should be spelled out to end speculation as to intent,
As I said in part one. Overall changes ain’t that simple.