B.C. now allowing rental properties on agricultural land

Domestic and foreign workers are seen picking daffodils at Longview Farms in Central Saanich: (CTV News)

The province is easing restrictions for secondary housing options on properties within B.C.'s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), which is land zoned specifically for farming as its primary purpose.

Previously, small secondary homes were only allowed on ALR land for use by property owners or immediate family members.

Now, the secondary homes can be used as a rental property, for labourers' accommodations, agritourism, or for extended family members, according to the province.

Additionally, these secondary homes no longer have to receive approval from the Agricultural Land Commission before being built. However, they do still need approval from local governments or First Nations before construction begins.

"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 statement Monday.

"We recognize the unique needs of established farming families, those new to farming and those living in the ALR who don’t farm," she said.

The secondary homes can take a range of forms, including garden suites, guest houses, accommodations above an existing building, or construction of a new primary residence if the previous primary residence was a prefabricated home.

The maximum size of the secondary home depends on the size of the property, and the size of the primary residence, according to the province.

The province says that farming families can continue to apply for multiple large residences if they are necessary for farming purposes.

The provincial government says it eased restrictions on housing within ALR land based on feedback from regional engagement sessions and ALR landowners.

"I am excited about this rule change, which supports farmers living on the land they manage, especially when affordable housing is in such short supply and purchasing farmland is near impossible for new farmers," said Katie Underwood, owner of Peas n' Carrots farm in Saanich, in a release Monday.

"As a farmer who does not live on her farm, living on site would strengthen my connection to the land, create peace of mind, particularly during windy nights, and encourage me to rest more often," she said. 

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

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