The Denman Community Land Trust (DCLTA) has received funding from the Comox Valley Housing Task Force to seek farm-friendly, affordable housing solutions. The Rural Affordable Housing Project will challenge existing farm land regulations and work to establish farm models which support affordable housing, food sustainability and nurture a strong rural vision.

The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) which administers the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) has recently been directed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands “to be a pro-active planning organization to address local planning topics and emerging issues affecting agriculture.” Now an opportunity for dialogue with the ALC exists. The present ALC process requires DCLTA and/or farm collective wannabes to buy land on spec and then negotiate with the ALC on a case by case basis with no guarantees, a significant money and time gamble, and with very little wiggle room.

The major hurdle to innovative, rural affordable housing solutions is the ALC’s policy that a parcel in the ALR must be limited to one dwelling. Under some conditions, a manufactured home — a trailer with a serial number — might be permitted, and that only after lengthy negotiations.

The Rural Affordable Housing Project funding enables DCLTA, via a qualified professional, to engage the ALC and its staff in discussions to develop the terms and framework for a contracted farm plan(s), expand the existing models for movable and collective housing configurations and encourage the establishment of affordable housing within co-operative farms. The project’s purpose is to provide long-term secure affordable housing. The goal is to provide a life on the land thus inviting initiative and commitment to rural living.

The Islands Trust, the Comox Valley Regional District, farm groups, farmers, builders, existing co-op farms and others will be asked to provide ideas.

This isn’t about migrant worker housing. It is about enhancing the viability of a working farm. The project should result in 1) at least one ‘generic’ ALC approved farm plan model and a broader range of acceptable housing configurations and 2) opportunities on Denman, within the CVRD and BC generally.

The need for quality, secure affordable housing is growing. To date, solutions have focused primarily on urban areas and on the homeless where the need is most extreme. In contrast, the Rural Affordable Housing Project’s goal is rural and pro-active with a focus on participating with the ALC to explore regulatory change and building capacity to reinvigorate farming on Denman Island, the Comox Valley, and BC.

For more info on DCLTA: denmanaffordablehousing.org

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