The Vicious Cycle of Farmland Speculation

Some of Richmond’s farmland is held by speculators who don’t lease it out for farmingnothing like as much as one might think, but some. Opponents of the Agricultural Land Reserve then keep making their perverse argument that all land that is not being farmed should be removed from the ALR. Sadly, that well-funded extreme view has gained some traction, adding to speculation and escalation of the price of farmland. That forces out farmers, especially new farmers.

Here in Richmond, the worst speculation is occurring right under our noses. Two big businesses stand to increase the value of over 78 acres from their ALR-value purchase amount by hundreds of millions of dollars. To make their speculation pay off, they are pressuring the government and people of Richmond to get 136 acres out of the ALR for them. In return, they would allow Richmond to buy almost 58 acres at ALR value and also receive a neighbourhood park dedication of less than 4 acres. (That bit of park is less land than the City would contribute in roads, so the City’s land would still be less than 58 acres.)

If the speculators’ 78 acres is developed, estimates of the population increase range from 14,000 to 20,000. The reduced City Centre park standard that Olga criticized in an earlier comment is 3.25 acres per thousand residents, so the speculator-developers ought to have to provide about 55 acres of parkland for the people in their development. This means that the parcels of land that the City may buy for several million dollars are roughly what developers should have to dedicate as park for their future residents.

What we have been describing is the Garden City Lands quagmire. The first step to turning things around is to help keep the Lands in the ALR. If we can repulse the very powerful speculator-developers that have some Richmond Council members fearfully taking directions from them, it will be a strong start. Besides saving our heritage and self-respect, we may even be able to do a great thing for our province by halting the vicious cycle of land speculation that would pave the land that should feed British Columbians of all generations to come.


A footnote: There are other reasons beside speculator strategy for Richmond farms not being used for farm purposes. However, land speculation—especially the land speculation on the Garden City Lands—is one of the factors. To some extent, that is because it combines with other factors to make it very difficult for sufficient new farmers to be available and able to farm. There are alternative visions for the Garden City lands that target those problems. Although those visions are not the whole solution, they would replace the speculators’ development plan that is part of the problems with a plan that is part of the solution.

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