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MLA calls for provincial action on ALR home sizes

Cowichan Valley MLA asks B.C. government to take at least one measure to halt construction of "monster homes"
Lana Popham
Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham during question period.

Earlier this week, an MLA from Vancouver Island called upon the provincial government to put an end to mega-homes on the agricultural land reserve. 

Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, asked during Tuesday’s question period for the government to take at least one measure to halt construction.

“Our agricultural land has been left unprotected from the forces of speculation and foreign capital. Monster homes are being built on prime farmland and farm prices are soaring well beyond the reach of our local farmers,” Furstenau said.

“There are a number of tools this government could use immediately to put a stop to that speculation on ALR land and protect the future for young farmers in B.C.”

Furstenau listed several of these potential tools including restricting foreign ownership of ALR land, applying for a speculation tax and foreign buyer tax for the ALR and creating “legally binding house-size limits to stop mega-mansions being built on prime farmland.”

In Richmond, council is expected to make a decision next week on home size restrictions on the ALR, after a general purposes committee voted to not only keep the maximum farmhouse size at the current 10,764 square feet, but also to allow an additional house to be built on the land without rezoning.

In response to Furstenau, Lana Popham, minister of agriculture said many communities across the province are concerned with the issue of home sizes.

“The one thing that building a monster home on the agricultural land reserve will almost guarantee is that a new farmer will not be able to afford that land to farm on and so we’re very concerned about that,” Popham said. “Richmond has been on the news with this issue, but we are hearing from other communities.”

Popham added that the ministry is currently looking at data that was collected during the its ALR revitalization consultation, which concluded last week.

For Furstenau, this wasn’t enough.

“I appreciate that there’s a review of ALR land, but time is of the essence on this issue and we cannot afford to wait another year before taking action,” she said.

However, while Popham did not give a specific commitment to action as Furstenau requested, she said changes needed to be made based on information gathered through the consultation.

At the municipal level, Richmond is expected to reach a decision on home sizes at next Monday’s council meeting.

With files from Daisy Xiong