A Central Saanich councillor says the municipality will need to review newly proposed housing rules for the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in expressing doubt about their impact.
“We’ll have to take a close look at what this all means,” said Coun. Bob Thompson, a longtime advocate for agriculture in the community. “It can certainly help bona fide farmers, but not everyone living on ALR lands is a farmer, of course. I don’t see this as having a significant impact on the overall housing challenges in Central Saanich. The addition of a ‘small house’ will also increase the value of a property which will subsequently increase the acquisition price.”
Thompson made these comments after the province released a report proposing to diversify housing options in the ALR. The proposed changes, if implemented, would provide additional residential flexibility in the ALR, said Lana Popham, the provincial minister of agriculture. Under the proposal, a small secondary residence would be available for farm workers, family members or anyone else, provided there is local government approval.
Thompson’s comments join those from Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor and North Saanich. Windsor said the new rules could help agricultural businesses desperately needing workers’ accommodations, while North Saanich said through its spokesperson that the municipality may loosen its housing rules if the provincial regulations come into effect.
The provincial government has said that nothing in its report is final, with a technical committee reviewing and refining the proposed direction until April 17 in preparation for potential recommendations. The proposed direction has already received support from other municipalities with large swaths of land in the ALR. Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, whose community has been pushing for some time to expand housing options, praised the direction.
“This proposed change would benefit Saanich residents who live or farm in the ALR because it creates more options for residences, while maintaining strong protections for farmland,” he said.
Interested parties who would like more information on this process, or who want to provide feedback for policy consideration, should contact ALR_ALCRevitalization@gov.bc.ca, write the ministry at PO Box 9043 Victoria, B.C. V8W 9E2, or call the AgriServiceBC line at 1 888 221-7141.
Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner