The B.C. NDP government’s crackdown on additional housing and business uses in the Agricultural Land Reserve has brought further calls from farmers that what they need is flexibility in keeping farms in business.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham got an earful of feedback on agricultural housing restrictions this spring, in a consultation that followed farmer protests last fall. Popham’s focus has been getting non-farm business and residential use off farmland, after she eliminated the B.C. Liberal government’s two-zone land reserve that allowed more business use.
The ministry’s efforts to crack down on construction waste and “mega-mansions” resulted in regulatory retreats after going too far, such as requiring costly permits for gravelling roads to keep them passable. And the housing crackdown has produced another do-over.
The ministry’s first response to a summary “what we heard” report released Sept. 4 is an extension of the “grandfathering period” of manufactured homes on farmland. It now extends until July 31, 2021, to allow time to develop new regulations.
“Landowners in the ALR will have until then to obtain the required permits and authorizations to place a manufactured residence for immediate family on their property, without having to apply to the Agricultural Land Commission,” the ministry said in a statement.
Currently only mobile or modular housing is allowed for immediate family members, but farmers are saying they need more options. The ministry consulted local governments and “people who identify as farmers,” as the report describes them.
“Many suggest that the tough realities of farming make other income streams necessary to support farm production and make a farm more resilient to tough economic conditions,” the ministry summary says. “The ability to have rental properties is seen as a way to assist in this.”
The ministry asked local governments about applications for “garden suite, guest house or carriage suite,” as well as “permitting a new permanent residence to be built in addition to the manufactured home that is the principal residence.” Some communities support all four and others would allow none.
The potential of “tiny homes” and “yurts” for farm worker housing was also discussed, with local governments suggesting any structures should comply with B.C.’s building code.
Most responding local governments said they would not prohibit additional homes on farmland. Asked which type of additional small residences, suggestions included allowing only single-family homes and making sure secondary residences aren’t used as short-term rentals. That could be done by requiring that secondary homes are close to the primary residence.
The ministry received 257 responses to its “policy intentions paper” from individual farmers and associations, some calling for flexible housing options for farms. Suggestions included regulations that allow two dwellings without an application to the Agricultural Land Commission, and “stick build” options rather than the current rule that only manufactured homes can be used as second residences.