Don’t believe anything the government tells you. Because they’re manipulative, they’re lying, and they rarely have your good in mind. Zoning laws are a great example.

Lets start with the agricultural land reserve. The government tells you that it was started to “protect farmland”. Because the Fraser Valley is home to the most fertile land in BC, theory is that protecting farmland is good for BC’s economy. That’s total BS. Today, 45% of the ALR is sitting empty. If farmland was actually so important, farmers would be farming on these lands. If it was so important, they would put this land to use even without an ALR regulation. But with farming technology so advanced, we can farm almost anywhere, and if the government tells you we’re going to run out of food, it’s a fear tactic.

The government tells you that zoning laws are meant to keep unsuitable practices away from each other, such as factories and houses. More BS. Now they’ve changed their story and say that zoning is needed to keep the character of the neighborhoods. That’s closer to the truth. 

There are two things that governments like: they like money, and they like to stay in power. The ALR, and zoning laws help them achieve both. Zoning laws are nothing but supply side restrictions. Their purpose is to restrict the uses for land, and they restrict the land available for possible use. The lack of supply drives up property prices, and as you know, property taxes are calculated using property prices. The lower the supply, the higher the value of properties, and the more revenue is generated.

But even more importantly, the government earns money by giving exemptions to their laws. This is known as crony capitalism, and it makes the government a lot of money. Have you wondered why developers are the biggest donors to any municipal political party? Crony capitalism at work. When developers want to take a piece of land zoned for single family housing, and build something bigger, they have to pay up. These fees account for a significant part of a city’s revenue. In some cities, developer fees account to almost 50% of their revenue. These zoning laws now act as a tax, and the tax revenue is so ginormous that it is impossible for cities to give it up. 

Second, governments want to stay in power. They want to protect the interests of the people who elected them. These people are wealthy homeowners, who want to keep their housing prices high. They don’t want a huge supply side injection, because this would drive down the prices of their homes. Towers in residential areas is a big no-no.

Update: January 6-
I just read this article regarding zoning laws from 1922. I was right. Note #2 and #6: http://discoveringurbanism.blogspot.ca/2012/05/edward-murray-bassett-and-origins-of.html