Saanich Peninsula communities impacted by new rules around housing in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) are largely taking a wait-and-see approach.
The provincial government announced July 12 new rules effective Dec. 31 that promise to increase housing flexibility. Farmers and owners of land in the ALR will now be able to have what the province calls an additional small secondary home without having to apply to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for permission. Approval will lie with municipal or First Nations authorities. The revised regulations would allow for garden suites, guest houses, carriage suites, accommodation above an existing building and manufactured homes, according to a release from the province.
Potential uses for any additional residence include housing extended family, housing farm labour, offering accommodation for agri-tourists or generating rental income. The province has dropped the previous requirement that land-owners or immediate family members must live in any additional residence.
Mayor Ryan Windsor of Central Saanich said the municipality looks forward to reviewing these changes as it has been working with farmers to improve accommodations for farm workers for a number of years. Staff will bring forward a report to council before the new rules become effective to determine their effect on local land use, he said.
Lana Popham, minister of agriculture and MLA for Saanich South, said in the release announcing the change that it will help both farmers and non-farmers alike, while protecting farmland.
“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.”
Brian Green, director of planning and community services for North Saanich, said the changes may benefit current ALR land owners more than potential ALR land owners seeking farmland in the municipality.
The pending change unfolds against the municipality’s review of the Official Community Plan.
The size of any future small secondary residence will depend on the size of the parcel and existing residence. If an existing residence of 5,400 square-feet or less stands on a parcel of 40 hectares or less, a second residence of about 970 square-feet or less is permissible.
If the existing residence is larger than 5,400 square feet, farmers must still apply to the ALC for an additional residence for farm use. On parcels larger than 40 hectares, a second residence of about 2,000 square-foot or less is permitted regardless of the size of the first residence.
The relaxed rules follow previous changes that cracked down on suburban mega-mansions and other types of housing on farmland.
– with files from Tom Fletcher
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