After getting an earful from B.C. farmers last year, Agriculture Minister Lana Popham has delivered on some promised changes to restrictions on secondary homes and road maintenance on farms that take effect Sept. 30.
The changes for secondary housing may not satisfy families struggling to house enough people to keep family farms going. Popham announced June 26 that individual applications beyond the principal residence will continue to be reviewed by the Agricultural Land Commission and local governments, but the fee to apply is being reduced from $1,500 to $900.
Popham’s crackdown on “monster homes” and construction dumping on farmland led to push-back from agricultural groups, and secondary housing restrictions extended across B.C. prompted a large demonstration at the B.C. legislature. The changes respond to that, and recent struggles of farms to employ and house temporary foreign workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It takes a lot of people to run a large farm,” Popham said in a statement announcing the latest reforms. “Having parents, in-laws and siblings on site helps many B.C. farms produce the food we need more efficiently.”
In January, Popham released a discussion paper recommending reform of the long-standing policy to restrict secondary housing to one mobile home for an immediate family member. It recommended that garden suites, guest houses, carriage suites and accommodations above existing buildings should be allowed without the full application process.
Delta South MLA Ian Paton, the B.C. Liberal agriculture critic, argues it makes no sense to keep rigid control on family farm dwellings while big Fraser Valley operations install vast concrete-floored greenhouses and bunkhouses for temporary workers on the province’s most productive land.
A similar regulation for placing fill on farmland was also protested as a step too far, extending into rural areas and capturing annual gravelling of roads to keep them passable. Popham promised to fix that in late October, and this week’s announcement creates a new regulation for roads.
A maximum of 50 cubic metres of fill for an entire farm will be changed to 50 cubic metres per 100 metres of existing road. Farmers will also be able to use recycled concrete aggregate or asphalt pavement fill to maintain roads.