Red Deer County supports housing to help the family farm

Allowing more residences on rural properties helps lure young people back to the farm

A Red Deer County initiative making it easier to build additional homes on rural properties is paying off, believes the mayor.

Jim Wood said the last time the county overhauled its Municipal Development Plan council introduced changes to housing rules to promote more rural growth.

“It was definitely something that was really important,” said Wood on Tuesday.

Allowing extra dwelling gives people an opportunity to keep family close.

“One good way to have a good community and family and to have it work well is to be able to have the parents stay close to their children and not have to go to an old folks home too early.”

Besides allowing rural residents to retire to their own properties while making room for the next generation, providing additional housing helps to lure young adults back to the family farm, he said.

All rural areas of Canada have seen growing numbers of young people move off the family farm to find jobs elsewhere. That rural brain drain has led to a steady increase in the average age of farmers who remain on the land.

Allowing second and third homes on family farms makes it easier for another generation to get started and to ensure farming thrives in the county, he said, adding it also adds to the county’s tax base and helps support local business.

A young farmer offered a case in point at Tuesday’s municipal planning commission, which was considering his application for a secondary farm dwelling.

“I saw this big smile when (approval) was unanimous and he had the ability to have his residence on the farm,” said the mayor.

Another benefit of keeping more family members together on the farm is it means there are more eyes looking out for crime. Rural crime has been a huge issue in all of rural Alberta.

“There’s nothing more important than having someone close to watch over things,” he said.

The approach appears to be working. Several applications for secondary dwellings, third homes or accessory buildings with a garden suite were approved by the county’s municipal planning commission.

Secondary dwellings and garden suites were not allowed under the previous Municipal Development Plan.

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