When Price Tags has a contest for the most important planning initiatives in Metro Vancouver, my vote will be for the recognition of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). This was created in 1973 to permanently protect 47,000 square kilometers of provincial fertile arable land from urbanization and land development. It was a smart idea to start the conversation of the importance of food security and maintenance of farm land. Once its developed, farmland never goes back to arable use.
Of course by its nature the ALR restrictions prevent land owners from flipping and developing agricultural properties, and many may say that restrains the property rights of the owners. But there are lots of loopholes that are being exploited, including the development of monster mansions in Richmond on agricultural properties. Price Tags has already reported on the fact that there is no foreign buyers’ tax on these mansions built on the best farmland in Canada-and hey, raise some blueberries or a few calves on the land and you will be paying the very low agricultural property tax too. This foreign ownership drives up the price of the farmland, and of course makes it so that a local farmer will be a vassal, not a land owner.
A prime example of McMansioning on the ALR lands is Sam Cooper’s article in the Vancouver Sun about 76 acres for sale in Surrey. The land is in the agricultural land reserve. A house with 14,225 square feet has been built on the land in the Tuscan style, and there’s a 15 acre vineyard. B.C. assessment papers value the residential-zoned land at $986,000; the farmland is valued at $76,000, with the buildings valued at $1.84 million. That total assessed value for this property is $2.9 million.
That may be the assessment value-but realtors have listed this property for $28 million dollars. Sam Cooper notes that “Marketers hired to sell the property are mounting a slick video ad campaign targeting a “special buyer” — likely from Mainland China they say — willing to pay surreal money for an “Italian resort” built on the border of Surrey and Langley, on the 4000-block of 192nd Street. Welcome to Villa di Fonti,” realtor Jin Ye says in a video aimed at ultra-wealthy international buyers. “Once inside this architectural masterpiece, you’ll walk into an old world Tuscan villa estate, with all the modern luxuries you can imagine.”
The YouTube video of this house on farmland is below:
This house took two years to build, has a helipad, parking for 40 cars, and a lake stocked with trout. To get approval for this house a “residential lot” had a special zoning process within the agricultural-zoned lands. After building this behemoth the owners are “downsizing” after living on the estate “for a short time“.“It really is fit for royalty,” said home-stager Scotty Rolland, a native of California who says she is familiar with some of the most luxurious real estate offerings in North America. “I’ve never seen anything like it in B.C.”
And with an asking price of $28 million this is how farmland is usurped away from its intended use, purchased at prices that were originally for agricultural land purposes-not a stocked trout pond. As the home-stager observed “It’s the size and the features,” Rolland said. “And it has really good feng shui. I believe there will be a buyer from China.”