Vancouver, BC, Canada

Daniel Garfinkel, the manager of the Richmond farm school, is a young urban farmer who fell in love with the social and ecological benefits of growing. (JENNIFER GAUTHIER / FOR STARMETRO)

Daniel Garfinkel, the manager of the Richmond farm school, is a young urban farmer who fell in love with the social and ecological benefits of growing. (JENNIFER GAUTHIER / FOR STARMETRO)

THE PROBLEM:

Just under ten miles south of Vancouver sits the municipality of Richmond, British Columbia, home to some of the best agricultural land in Canada. Advocates have been working to preserve this land for farming since 1973, when the threat of residential development spurred the creation of the Agricultural Land Reserve. Today, many in Richmond are enraged as they continue to fight against mansions built on farmland. In 2018, British Columbia announced an increase in taxes for foreign buyers of residential properties. This tax was not applied to agricultural land, and consequently it is now being developed for residential use by foreign entities. The homes under construction in Richmond are lavish estates that compromise food security, ruin arable land, and drive up real estate prices. Richmond’s zoning legislation currently limits these houses to an enormous 10,764 square feet, and allows for the construction of second homes that are over 3,000 square feet.
Many of the luxury homes being constructed in Richmond, Vancouver, and the nearby farming town of Delta are never even inhabited. They are built with the assumption that they will be purchased and flipped multiple times in what many believe is a money laundering scheme executed by foreign investors. This practice of real estate racketeering is particularly common in West Vancouver, where whole neighborhoods are comprised of seemingly abandoned multimillion-dollar homes.
Additionally, the Vancouver area suffers from a crippling trades shortage that is only exacerbated by the construction of these mansions. Many typical family homes are dilapidated simply because there are not enough workers to repair them. The few available tradesmen and women are preoccupied building luxury homes.

PROPOSED SOLUTIONS:

The advisory committee for the Agricultural Land Reserve has recommended limiting the size of houses built on agricultural land to 5,382 square feet. Nearly 80% of those surveyed in response to the committee’s report agreed with the regulation recommendations. Support for the regulation is bipartisan and backed by Richmond’s city planners, but some city councillors continue to vote against limiting house size. Many farmers in the community have announced their intentions to run for Richmond Council in the upcoming elections.
In response to the abundance of vacant homes, the City of Vancouver has implemented an Empty Homes Tax. Underutilized or vacant homes will now be subject to a tax equal to 1% of a property’s assessed value. Revenue generated by the tax will be used to expand affordable housing initiatives.

PROGRESS:

On December 17th, 2o18 Richmond City Council passed an amendment to limit house size on agricultural land to 4,300 square feet.
Multi-generational farming families have band together to oppose the limitations on homes built on agricultural land. Many are concerned that restricting house size to 5,400 square feet will adversely affect their way of life.
On November 5th, 2018 the province of British Columbia proposed new legislation that, if passed, would limit new homes built on farmland to 5,400 square feet. The Agriculture Land Commission would be able to issue exceptions to the law if it is determined that the building supports agriculture practices.
In August 2018 British Columbia’s Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham, stated she would be stepping in to ensure additional regulations are placed on the development of Richmond’s agricultural land.
On February 22, 2019 the new zoning regulations went into effect. Houses built on ALR will now be limited to 5,400 square feet.

— Cassie Dana, One Big Home Researcher

NEWS FEED

WESTERN INVESTORS:
Province follows Richmond's lead in limiting ALR homes sizes

VANCOUVER COURIER:
Province limits homes sizes in ALR

CBC:
New Agricultural Land Reserve regulations take effect

RICHMOND NEWS:
Year in review: ALR home sizes shrink

RICHMOND NEWS:
Richmond council limits ALR homes to 400 square metres

RICHMOND NEWS:
Richmond council hears from public on farmhouse size

CBC:
Big families raise concerns over provincial plan to limit size of ALR houses

RICHMOND NEWS:
Richmond council votes to cut ALR home sizes even further

DELTA OPTIMIST:
Province finally catches up to Delta on farm mansions

BC GOV NEWS:
New legislation makes it clear: Farmland is for farming

CBC:
City of Richmond votes in favour of limiting mega-mansions on ALR land

TIMES COLONIST:
Farmers applaud new restrictions on mega-homes

CITY NEWS 1130:
Province, Richmond move to restrict 'mega-homes' on farmland

ABBOTSFORD NEWS:
Most homes being built on Abbotsford farmland exceed new size limits

GLOBAL NEWS:
As dreams of home ownership fade, B.C. startup offers shares in Vancouver homes for as little as $1

THE STAR:
Small-scale farmers drawn into land-use debate in Richmond

THINKPOL:
Dilapidated homes, leaky condos, and crumbling mansions

STEELE THE SHOW:
Breton Crellin vs. the luxury housing market

RICHMOND NEWS:
Upcoming legislation will kill Richmond's farm mega-mansions: Agriculture Minister

PRICE TAGS:
Province says they are going to stop the private estating of agricultural lands

CBC:
'We have no alternative': White paper warns lost B.C. farmland could be catastrophic

RICHMOND NEWS:
RITE Richmond and Richmond Citizens' Association slates join forces in coalition



VANCOUVER PROFILES:

Breton Crellin

Stonemason, Vancouver, BC, Canada

“I make my living building homes no one can afford to live in, while I get priced out of the place I was born. In Vancouver, tradespeople are living out of their own cars, while the homes we build are left empty and used to launder money.”
View Breton’s Profile

 
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Michael Wolfe

High School Science Teacher, Richmond, BC, Canada

“I’ve learned how close our city council is with developers of mega-mansions on farmland. This is why I have chosen to run for city council—to replace them and challenge the status quo, for a better future for all.”
View Michael’s Profile

 
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Ina Mitchell

Documentary Filmmaker, Vancouver, BC, Canada

“I mainly see this issue as one of greed, loss of community values, and lack of accountability from people in positions of power who knew what was going on but did nothing to stop it, out of self-interest…that is what I am working toward: preservation of our way of life, the right to shelter, and sustainable living for all ‘equally.’”
View Ina’s Profile



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