Photo by Chung Chow
A 5,500-signature petition was presented to Richmond Council Monday by members of the Richmond Citizens Association who held a rally to support Richmond farmland.
Kelly Greene, who was joined by Judie Schneider and Jack Trovato, told The Richmond Sentinel that farmland speculation needs to removed from the equation to address the issue of mega mansions being built on valuable farmland. And to do that, house sizes need to be reduced so speculation becomes much less attractive.
Under the current rules, farmland speculation will continue, she says, as long as buyers are able to build an estate that’s a stone’s throw away from Vancouver International Airport and a just a short drive to Downtown Vancouver.
“As long as they can build an ultra-luxury estate in a great urban centre…they’re going to go for that,” Green said.
While provincial rules limit house size on the Agricultural Land Reserve to roughly 5,400 square feet, the rules in Richmond permit a home that’s twice as large.
“Speculators want to build as big as possible. Why build on a city lot, when you can build almost 11,000 square feet on farmland,” Schneider said.
Trovato said real farmers can’t afford to buy land to farm or even land to lease.
“And if they can find a lease, it’s tenuous, so farmers can’t make the long-term improvements they need,” he said.
The mega mansions that have recently been built on local farmland have attracted “illegal and grey-area activities,” the association said in a press release. That includes booze cans, gambling dens, prostitution, violence, illegal hotels, birthing hotels and money laundering.
“Residents know these aren’t farmhouses. These are estates for speculators and the ultra-rich. People are fed up with these people destroying farmland and getting tax breaks at the same time,” Greene said.
ALR farmland isn’t subject to the 20 per cent foreign homebuyers tax. Since the introduction of that tax in 2016, local farmland prices have increased 300 per cent, the group said.