This article on urban agriculture ordinances is the second in a series of urban agriculture articles here at RealEstate.com that we will be providing in the coming months. Urban agriculture is simply the term used for growing your own foods in an urban environment, but it includes more than just gardening. It includes things like beekeeping, growing fruit trees, and raising chickens for eggs.
Be Aware of Urban Agriculture Ordinances
One of the advantages of buying a home is the ability to do what you want with your property. There’s no landlord telling you what you can and cannot do. You can paint your living room an absurd color, put as many holes in the walls as you want, and, for many homebuyers, finally plant that garden you’ve always wanted.
But wait. Not so fast.
When it comes to the exterior of your home, there may be urban agriculture ordinances that govern where you can plant a garden, whether or not you can start beekeeping, or if it is okay to raise chickens. If starting your own urban homestead is important to you and you’ve always dreamed of raising chickens, you may want to check the urban agriculture ordinances in your city before buying a home.
Is Raising Chickens in the City Okay?
You may be surprised to know that raising chickens, for example, is completely legal in New York City while smaller towns often have laws prohibiting backyard poultry farming. It took a grassroots effort in Missoula, Mont. , for example, to overturn an urban agriculture ordinance that prohibited raising chickens while New York City urban agriculture ordinances place no limits on how many chickens you can have. In Seattle, however, residents are limited to eight chickens. In both cities, roosters are outlawed and for good reason. The crowing that starts at 5 a.m. and continues until sunset will test the mettle of neighborhood relationships.
The bottom line is simple. If raising chickens, beekeeping, raising goats, or any other form of urban agriculture is important to your reasons for buying a home, check the urban agriculture ordinances in your chosen area before you move in to your new home.
Urban Agriculture Ordinances and Permitting Requirements
Urban agriculture ordinances exist for a lot of different reasons, so it’s important to check with your city planning and development department before starting construction on any structures or major projects. In Seattle, for example, the number of animals you can raise on your urban farm varies depending on the square footage of your property, but urban agriculture ordinances also govern the size and height of accessory buildings like chicken coops. If you are beekeeping, these ordinances can also prescribe the required distance hives need to be from property lines and whether or not signage is required to alert people with bee allergies to the presence of bees on your property.
If your urban farm is successful, you might want to sell some of the goods you produce. Urban agriculture ordinances also cover the hours of operation when your urban farm stand can accept customers.
General Homeowners Association Policies
Even when the city you live in has urban agriculture ordinances allowing you to grow and raise what you want on your urban farm, your neighborhood homeowners association may not. General neighborhood homeowners association policies typically have rules about how your front yard landscaping should look. If you are buying a home with the dream of growing your own foods, this could be a problem if the only exposure to good sunlight is in the front of the house.
In Seattle, for example, residents are allowed to construct raised beds for gardening in the parking strips in front of their homes. The parking strip is that area between the sidewalk and the street usually reserved for grass and street trees. If your neighborhood homeowners association policies restrict this, however, and it’s the only place on your property that gets good sunlight, you can kiss those homegrown tomatoes goodbye.
The bottom line is that if you are buying a home with intention of growing your own foods, raising chickens for eggs, or beekeeping, it is very important to check the urban agriculture ordinances in that area before closing on your home.
Questions About Urban Agriculture?
Come back for more urban agriculture articles. We’ll try to cover everything you need to know about growing your own food in urban lots and small spaces.
Let us know if these articles are helpful for you and if you have specific questions on urban agriculture. We would love to answer them.