ALR in need of overhaul

When I moved to Kelowna in the early 90’s, homes were selling for $150,000. In fact, I bought a 3 acre parcel for $69,000 which I now regret selling. My how things have changed. I don’t know how anyone starting out can ever get into home ownership.

Small, and I mean very small building lots in Kelowna/West Kelowna are now going for well over $500,000. In my opinion the ALR is directly responsible for this. It’s simple economics. Kelowna is growing, people want homes, and lack of supply drives prices up.

Look at the area in dark green in the image. This is all in the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) and undevelopable. This area is probably 4 times, maybe 5, the area of the developable areas of Kelowna. I understand our orchard industry in an important part of the Okanagan economy and we need to preserve it, but anecdotally I would say 3/4 of the land below, or maybe even more, is either private estates, or empty land not being used for agriculture.

In fact some of it would be near impossible to grow anything on as it has a lot of rock and boulders making clearing and bedding it for agriculture unfeasible, but yet would make space for housing.

Yes, I support an agricultural industry in the Okanagan, but there seems to be lack of common sense how this land bank is administered. Many people are buying these former orchard lands and building estates, and in some case receiving tax relief. They are not being used for agriculture. I am pretty sure this was not the intention of the ALR. In my area, a 9 acre parcel of ALR land was just sold last year for less money than my 1 acre non-ALR property, and today, most of the orchard is gone and now it has a massive home.

Is this what we want?

The ALR in its current state is not serving its purpose and only making housing unaffordable. I encourage you to drive around Kelowna with this map and look how much land it sitting empty, overgrown, or is hobby horse pasture or hobby farms. There are large swaths of land in the ALR that will likely never be used as agriculture due the poor or rocky soil conditions. Why can we not develop these?

Vancouver is also choked by ALR land. An interactive map is available here.

I am not suggesting we should discard the ALR but there needs to be a detailed study of ALR land use in the Okanagan. If we are going to regulate and protect agriculture we need to ensure the protected land is actually being used for the purposes intended, and balance that with ensuring enough supply to keep housing demand low. Whenever the government regulates anything it seems to have the opposite effect.

Kim Dobranski, Kelowna

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