Guest houses, rooms over the garage or manufactured homes will be allowed without an application to the Agricultural Land Commission under new B.C. regulations set to take effect in 2022.
It’s the latest move to ease the NDP government’s farmland restrictions imposed in 2019 that sparked farmer protests. That legislative overhaul removed the rural zone from the Agricultural Land Reserve and cracked down on suburban “mega-mansions,” secondary residences, on-farm businesses and use of fill on farmland.
A requirement for costly ALC permits for gravelling of roads to keep them passable was withdrawn, and provincial approval for second homes is officially going, after existing mobile homes were “grandfathered” last fall with an extension that was set to expire in July. That is extended again until Dec. 31.
The new rules allow for construction of a new principal residence on foundations in addition to a manufactured home that was formerly a principal residence. The regulations will allow “garden suites, guest houses, carriage suites, accommodation above an existing building and manufactured homes,” Agriculture Minister Lana Popham announced July 12.
As of 2022, new secondary accommodation still requires local government approval, with restrictions on the size of secondary houses based on the size of the farm and the existing residence. On a parcel of 40 hectares (98 acres) or smaller with a house 500 square metres (5,400 square feet) or more, no secondary residence will be allowed.
“Farming families will continue to be able to apply to the ALC for multiple, larger homes if they are necessary for farming purposes,” the ministry says.
B.C. Liberal agriculture critic Ian Paton said the latest changes correct Popham’s initial mistakes, as outlined in the protests about financial viability of farms received in a consultation round in September 2020 after restrictions were imposed.
“Then, after they got backlash, they dragged farmers through three years’ worth of reviews and feedback exercises that destroyed their dreams and cost them precious time and money,” Paton said.