“It’s pretty obvious that the houses being built are not farmhouses, but are being built as luxury estates”.
Price Tags has been documenting the City of Richmond’s refusal to recognize and protect farmland designated as part of the Province of British Columbia’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
But first, in case you’ve missed our coverage — and definitely before you skip to the video which, at just over 90 seconds, delivers quite the gut punch — some background.
The ALR is an innovative provincial policy that was established to retain some of the best farmland in Canada for agricultural use; this policy has been spurned by Richmond City Council in favour of approvals for 10,000+ square foot mansions to be built on 1/2-acre parcels of that very same farmland. This, in turn, has resulted in a windfall of developer profits as this land is turned into gated private estates (many offshore-owned) never to return to the inventory of arable land.
In particular, Price Tags has discussed the house and land located at 11400 No. 2 Road, purchased three years ago and assessed at $88,000; in 2018, with a mansion nearing completion, that property is now assessed at $8.3 million.
There are tax loopholes being used when farmland is purchased for an estate property. You don’t pay the foreign buyers’ tax on agricultural land. And if you raise a horse on the property, or plant some blueberries you pay annual property tax at agricultural property rates, much lower than residential rates.
The YouTube video below shows the size of these “farmhouses” being built on former ALR farmland. Richmond City Council has offered an additional “farmworkers dwelling” of 3,000 square feet in addition to the maximum space of 10,700 square feet for a mansion. Since you can’t legislate who lives in houses, once can safely assume — especially given today’s rental marketplace — that it won’t be farmworkers in that additional dwelling.
The Province of British Columbia needs to step in and end this cannibalization of farmland resources, which has had protective legislation in place since 1973. The City of Richmond makes its final decision on the mansion-ing of the most arable farmland in Canada on Monday May 14th at 7:00 p.m.
It is feared that this Council lacks the political will to stand up to developer insistence. The need to make a profit by abusing farmland policy supercedes decades of planned provisions for local food security, which will hurt future generations.