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New rules create greater flexibility for BC farmers in ALR


July 13, 2021
By BC Agriculture, Food and Fisheries

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New rules will allow increased housing flexibility for B.C. property owners in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) , helping farmers and non-farmers support their families and businesses in their communities.

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).

“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. 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,” Katie Underwood, owner, Peas n’ Carrots farm.

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

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.

“UBCM is pleased to see changes that increase residential options for landowners in the ALR.  Our members have identified housing affordability, house sizes and farm worker housing as important issues in their communities, and these changes will help local governments to address these challenges by working with local farmers and ALR landowners,” says Brian Frenkel, president, Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), and councillor, District of Vanderhoof.

“In B.C. we have a finite amount of land set aside for agriculture. Balancing the growing demands on the ALR and greater flexibility that benefits agriculture is a priority of the ALC,” says Jennifer Dyson, chair, ALC.

The size of a small secondary residence will depend on the size of the land parcel and the existing home.

On parcels 40 hectares or smaller, if the existing residence is 500 square metres (approximately 5,400 square feet) or less, a second residence of 90 square metres (approximately 970 square feet) or less can be built.

If the existing residence is larger than 500 square metres, then a small secondary residence for non-farm use would not be permitted. However, farmers can still apply to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for an additional residence for farm use.

On parcels larger than 40 hectares, a second residence 186 square metres (approximately 2,000 square feet) or less is permitted, no matter the size of the first residence.


For more information about the ALR, visit:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/agricultural-land-and-environment/agricultural-land-reserve/the-agricultural-land-reserve