British Columbia

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

'We live in a multi-generation family: My dad lives there, my mom, my brother...and 5,400 square feet is not going to cut it,' says Abbotsford resident Dave Sidhu.

Farmers argue limit of 5,400 sq. ft. would harm their way of life

New government legislation is aimed at keeping mega-mansions like this one in Richmond from being built on ALR land. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Farming families in B.C. say legislation in the works to limit the size of homes on agricultural land will impact their quality of life.

Hundreds of people crowded into a town hall meeting in Surrey on Sunday to voice their concerns about Bill 52, which if passed would cap the size of houses on Agricultural Land Reserve or ALR lands to 5,400 square feet.

Hundreds of farming families attended a town hall in Surrey on Nov. 25, 2018 to raise concerns about new government legislation that would limit the size of houses on ALR land. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

"We live in a multi-generation family. My dad lives there, my mom, my brother. We're both married and 5,400 square feet is not going to cut it," said Abbotsford resident Dave Sidhu whose family owns a newspaper and has been farming on ALR land since the 1980s

The ALR was established in 1973 to protect land with prime agricultural conditions for farming and ranching. It currently protects approximately 4.6 million hectares of arable land in B.C.

The province announced house size legislation in early November to prevent land speculators from pushing the price of farmland out of reach for young farmers. It also says having mega-mansions on ALR land detracts from it being used for agriculture.

"We're ... seeing extraordinarily huge homes being built on these agricultural lands, and people not even farming the land," said Ravi Kahlon the MLA for North Delta. He along with other members of government participated in the town hall.

He says if families can show that they are multi-generational farmers, they would still be allowed to build larger homes under the legislation.

A man asks a questions to the panel at a town hall in Surrey on Nov. 25, 2018 about new legislation that would limit the size of homes on ALR land. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Abbotsford resident and multi-generational farmer Jaskirat Mann, 39, says she hopes that the legislation will reflect her family's needs.

"We live with our parents and then with our kids, so three generations basically live together and everyone needs their privacy," she said.

Jaskirat Mann says she hopes the government will listen to concerns about Bill 52 from multi-generational farming families like hers. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The B.C. Liberal's critic for agriculture, Ian Paton, says the government needs to be mindful over the changes to how homes will be built on ALR land.

"As long as they're actively farming that land, and as long we place those homes in the right position of the farm so they're not impeding with the use of good agricultural land, then we need to listen to them and they need to be heard," said the MLA for Delta South.

The bill is currently at first reading.

With files from Jon Hernandez.