A consultant says not enough Metro Vancouver farmland is intensively farmed and property tax reforms could help address the problem.

A consultant says not enough Metro Vancouver farmland is intensively farmed and property tax reforms could help address the problem.

Too easy for fake farmers to dodge tax, Metro Vancouver told

Reform to property tax rules could boost legitimate farming, deter underuse in ALR

More agricultural land in the Lower Mainland might actually be farmed if cities crack down on property owners who abuse the current rules to avoid paying higher property taxes.

That’s the advice to Metro Vancouver from consultant Scott Bowden of Colliers International, who studied options to intensify agricultural and industrial land use on behalf of the regional district.

Bowden said too much land is underused because it’s too easy to qualify for farm tax status, which reduces the property tax owners pay by as much as 99 per cent from what they’d pay at residential rates.

“We have seen evidence of this being abused,” he told a recent Metro Vancouver regional planning committee meeting.

A Chilliwack man saved more than $100,000 by arranging to have a few llamas put on industrial land he owned, Bowden said, while similar cases crop up of land owners adding a few cows or other livestock to achieve the “incredible benefit” of farm rates.

Bowden said one option would be to substantially raise the current threshold for farm status – it only takes $2,500 in annual agricultural revenue for properties that are four hectares or smaller.

Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, who is also a cattle farmer, said the threshold should definitely be raised, adding he’s turned down requests to put a few cows on properties to help owners dodge paying tax.

He suspects many owners of giant houses on farmland avoid paying much higher tax bills by leasing out part of their yards to blueberry growers or livestock farmers.

Steves said tax relief should be reserved for “bona fide farmers.”

Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese said people with secluded country mansions who have no intention of farming shouldn’t be able to get the farm tax break.

“I believe they should be taxed at residential rates,” he said. “There are a lot of land owners who take advantage of the agricultural taxation.”

Bowden said cities should consider applying much higher residential tax rates in the Agricultural Land Reserve to increase the cost to wealthy residents who don’t even attempt to seek farm status.

Different residential tax rates can be applied in different geographic areas, he said, and the ALR could be defined as such.

“We could make it so onerous to be located in the ALR that they would be more inclined to lease their property to a farmer in order to achieve the farm class status.”

Meanwhile, Bowden said, legitimate farms should be allowed to average their production revenue over several years so they don’t lose farm status if they suffer the occasional money-losing year.

Another reform already enacted last year by the provincial government exempts a larger amount of the assessed value of farm buildings like greenhouses and barns on areas with poor soil.

Bowden said that change means a $1-million greenhouse today pays property tax on a much smaller fraction of the value, adding it’s hoped that encourages greater use of greenhouses.

Metro planners intend to discuss Bowden’s findings with local cities and provincial officials before recommending any changes.

Map from Metro Vancouver shows ALR farmland in the region. Green parcels represent the half of ALR land that’s actively farmed, purple areas aren’t farmed but counted as available with potential for farming, while unavailable areas in gold include parks and golf courses.  Image: metrovancouver.org

Half of Metro ALR land in Metro is actively farmed

Just half of the 60,893 hectares of Agricultural Land Reserve land in Metro Vancouver is actively farmed, according to a regional district report.

Another 25 per cent isn’t farmed but has potential to be, while another quarter is categorized as unavailable for farming because of incompatible uses like parks, golf courses or housing.

Delta has the highest proportion – 79 per cent – of its 9,400 hectares of ALR land actually farmed. It’s followed by Pitt Meadows at 60 per cent, Richmond at 59 per cent and Surrey at 58 per cent.

Langley Township’s 23,406 hectares of ALR land – the largest amount of any municipality in the region – is only 45 per cent actively farmed. Maple Ridge is worse yet with only 31 per cent of its 3,787 hectares in the ALR actively producing.

 

 

 

Just Posted

Folks look through some of the items for sale during the Voice of Hope giant garage sale at 7350 Barrow Rd. in Chilliwack on Saturday, June 19, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Giant garage sale today in Chilliwack supports Kenyan widows, orphans

Funds go to Chilliwack-based Voice of Hope charity to improve quality of life for impoverished Kenyans

Ben Holwerda of the Chilliwack Spartan Swim Club competes in a swim meet at the Landing Leisure Centre on Feb. 12, 2011. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack Landing Leisure Centre to close temporarily for scheduled maintenance

Pools, steam room, and sauna at Landing Leisure Centre closing for maintenance July 19 to Sep. 4

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack woman’s 100-km birthday marathon to benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Volunteers will gather at South Gate Shopping Centre on Fathers Day before fanning out to help clean up downtown Chilliwack. (Facebook photo)
Kindness Chain Chilliwack Association organizes Fathers Day cleanup

Volunteers will spend 90 minutes fanning out to gather trash in downtown Chilliwack

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

Most Read