The City of Kelowna is taking another shot at finding a solution to its ongoing issue of how to allow temporary farm worker housing.
On Monday, council unanimously approved a number of changes to the policy it introduced earlier this year. It was a policy that drew a large crowd at a public hearing and was deferred by council pending some alterations following concerns by farmers and the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association.
“Staff have done a marvelous job of going from a rock and a hard place to something we can all live with,” said Coun. Charlie Hodge in praising the changes recommended by staff.
Those changes include:
• Allowing for structures in each sector of the city, which could allow farmers to have multiple temporary housing facilities on multiple pieces of farm land in Kelowna.
• Changing the maximum number of months farm workers can stay to 10 months from eight.
• Increasing the maximum number of workers who can be accommodated to 60 workers from 40 depending on the size of land.
• Increasing a structure’s footprint to 0.3 of a hectare from from 0.2 of a hectare.
The changes were made after further consultation with the BCFGA and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Councillors said they liked the changes, which they felt were a compromise that improved the previous policy.
The new proposed rules will now go back to another public hearing for further comment from farmers and members of the general public.
The will have to be signed off by the Ministry of Agriculture. It has said because of the current uncertainty about which party will ultimately end up in government in Victoria, it is currently in a holding pattern when it comes to approving such rules.
Despite that, all councillors and the mayor weighed in to praise the changes.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Coun. Mohini Singh, adding she felt staff hit what she called “the sweet spot.”
“It’s a spot that works for all of us,” she said.
Mayor Colin Basran said he was surprised to see the sector change.
The previous version limited temporary farm worker housing to one sector per farmer. It was a change several farmers asked for at the public hearing.
While Basran said he felt it “watered down” the policy slightly, it was a compromise he was willing to support.