Despite the many criticisms farmers have levelled against the province’s management of the Agricultural Land Reserve, industrial land developers don’t see any way around protections imposed on farmland.
During the Vancouver Real Estate Forum this week, a panel focused on industrial real estate lamented that it’s impossible for even marginally productive land to be released.
“I would say there’s zero chance,” says John Middleton, senior vice-president with Onni Group. “I think it’s highly unlikely that we’ll get anything physically out of the ALR with NDP in power right now. It’s just too much of a political hot button.”
He said this holds true even for marginal properties that are best suited for hydroponic growing containers, a nod to the province’s recent decision to allow vertical farms to locate in the ALR.
The challenges of securing land in the South Campbell Heights area of Surrey for industrial development, an area hemmed in by the ALR, underscores the point.
“We’ve seen just how challenging it is and how much risk in trying to pull land out of the ALR, and how costly and time-consuming it can be,” said Rowan Hicks, industrial sales director with Beedie, one of Western Canada’s largest industrial developers.
Despite the sense that the province won’t allow land to be excluded from the ALR, 84 acres were excluded in the year ended March 31, 2021.
However, the ALR as a whole consists of 11.7 million acres across the province, or about 5% of the province’s total area.