Vancouver Community Gardens A Gift From Developers Who Get Tax Bre
Vancouver Community Gardens A Gift From Developers Who Get Tax Break
Published on: April 14, 2017 | Last Updated: April 14, 2017 2:32 PM PDT
Driving rain couldn’t keep a steady stream of urban gardeners from showing up to claim their plots at a new, temporary community garden at the corner of 10th and Alma in Vancouver last Saturday.
The transformation of a gravel lot on the site of a long-shuttered gas station was spearheaded by Shifting Growth, a Vancouver non-profit that bridges the gap between commercial property owners and urbanites eager to grow their own food.
For a modest buy-in fee of $15, gardeners at one of Shifting Growth’s urban gardens get a 4′ x 3.3′ raised box, already assembled, filled with good soil and access to water. Unlike collective community gardens governed by boards, Shifting Growth gardeners don’t have to deal with the politics of a group or commit hours to site maintenance.
“We take care of all the management. There are no work party requirements, where a lot of the complications come in,” said Chris Reid, executive director of Shifting Growth. “Most people don’t want to be responsible for a non-profit, they just want to grow food, and we let them do that.”
The 100 raised beds at Alma and 10th are on land owned by Landa Global Properties.
“The site has been empty for many years and we thought this would be a great way to give back to the community and do something useful while we go through the development process,” said Kevin Cheung, Landa’s CEO in a statement.
Shifting Growth doesn’t solicit developers because there are enough developers willing to assume the risk and responsibility for the garden projects in exchange for a tax break from the B.C. Assessment Authority. If a vacant lot houses a temporary community garden it will be taxed at a lower rate than on a business site.
Reid said the situation is a win for both the community and developer. “We try to keep it really local, so we put up a notice right by the property, in the hopes that we will get people from the neighbourhood who might live in condos or basement suites, who don’t have another option to grow their own food.”
Reid said their land use agreements with corporations range from one to five years. “If we can get one season out of it, it’s a great engagement piece for the community. It’s a great engagement piece for the community.”
Shifting Growth has over 600 garden beds on seven properties from Dunbar to East Vancouver, False Creek to North Vancouver. Vacant residential lots don’t qualify for the same benefit through the B.C. Assessment Authority.
Shifting Growth began with a start-up grant from Vancity Credit Union.
“We had to work against some preconceived notions about community gardens, and the associated risks. We had to prove there was a model that would work,” Reid said.
An unexpected offshoot of the initiative is the success of their pre-fab raised garden boxes, which are set on pallets for drainage, which they now sell through their website shiftinggrowth.com
Reid said Shifting Growth researched and found a German community gardener making use of a hinged shipping industry box that lies flat when not in use. “We import the hinges, buy local untreated cedar and assemble them by hand in Vancouver. It unfolds in about a minute, you fill it with soil and you’re ready to go.”