In Richmond today, grandiose and ostentatious homes of 20,000-square-feet or more are being built and sold in the ALR.
These properties are a real estate “special buy” because they allow people to build huge homes not subject to the foreign buyers’ tax as ALR homes are exempt from said tax.
Moreover, there is an additional tax break on the land if it’s farmed. This serves property owners who lease the land for farming, while being subject to none of the size constraints of a regular residential property.
At the council meeting this last week (Jan. 23), many people spoke and brought photographic and anecdotal evidence to show how big the homes on the ALR have become, and how far removed they are from any agricultural purpose.
There were also people who claimed that they need big homes to accommodate multi-generational families.
I believe multi-generational families can be accommodated, even if the city restricts the size of the residential plate on the ALR to 7,000-square-feet. This size is adequate to build a 5,318-square-foot house, as is recommended by the ministry of agriculture and still leaves room for building garages and accessory farm buildings.
How many people can a 5,318-square -foot house fit?
According to Engineering Toolbox, a website that provides design and construction information, 100-400-square-feet is more than adequate space for a person to live in. If we do the math, a house this size could shelter a family of 10-12 people with ease.
People who want to farm in Richmond today cannot afford to buy in the ALR as prices have shot through the roof because it is being monopolized by a few for building and selling mansions.
Allowing 10,000 or 20,000-square-foot homes leaves the ALR vulnerable to land speculation.
Cities regulate house sizes on all other kinds of property. Besides, the ALR is meant to be land primarily for farming, not for residential use.
Farming is hard work and it should be rewarded. However, the city should allow no one, from any community, background or profession, to milk the system. As a society we need to move past the “race argument” and come together around common goals, which in this case is the preservation of farmland for agriculture.
Agricultural land is being degraded and frittered away parcel by parcel and this has to stop now. Council, please act and put a moratorium on this kind of building until you are ready to pass a new bylaw controlling house sizes on the ALR. A moratorium is needed so that there is no land rush as we saw recently for LUC properties.
George Eliot said in her novel Middlemarch, “Wherein lies power, there lies blame, too.”
I believe the power lies with the Richmond council and mayor, as the provincial government has given local municipalities the power to regulate house sizes on farmland.