Sacrificing farmland is a bad land use policy

Mr. Brown says land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) should be redesigned and made available for residential housing...

Re: Accommodate rising demand, PNR letters, Jan. 30, 2013.

In his most recent letter, Mr. Brown says land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) should be redesigned and made available for residential housing.

I strongly disagree. Of all the lands in the Greater Victoria capital region, only 5.4 per cent still remain in the ALR, accordant to CRD data. The protection of this land is a key objective of our regional growth strategy. Further, a province-wide Ipsos Reid survey conducted in 2008 indicated 95 per cent support for the ALR and the policy of preserving farmland.

Global trade and economic indicators suggest the era of cheap, imported food is probably over. Information from the United Nations Food Price Index notes “by mid-2008, international food prices had skyrocketed to their highest level in 30 years,” and they remain very volatile. Increasingly, governments at all levels are recognizing the importance of the farming industry.

Sacrificing farmland on the Peninsula to promote further urban sprawl into those areas is, in my view, bad land use policy. It ignores the value of preserving farmland to provide future food supply and security in a rapidly-changing world. There is no reason to believe that simply opening up farmland to market housing developments will produce houses for the price of $360,000, mentioned by the writer.

Provincial legislation enables municipalities to establish affordable housing policies to direct developers in return for rezoning to higher densities. Experience suggests that this is an effective approach to encouraging genuinely affordable housing projects. However, the majority on North Saanich council has not, to date, supported the adoption of an affordable housing policy framework for the district.

Barbara Brennan

North Saanich