They sit on massive parcels of land, and housing advocates say the time has passed for golf courses in dense urban areas.
“I just don’t think that golf courses belong in urban settings,” says Luke Mari of Aryze Developments.
With the region’s housing crisis deepening, Mari uses Cedar Hill Golf Course in Saanich as an example of 130 acres better suited to the needs of the greater public.
“You could house 10 thousand people using five per cent of the land,” says Mari.
He’s quick to point out that this should not be undertaken by private developers. “Such a unique opportunity as this is a chance for government to provide non-market affordable housing.”
Mari uses Cedar Hill as an example because it’s owned by the District.
Councillor Zac de Vries says developments are underway on several Saanich-owned sites, including the Nelly McClung Library, which will be home to new housing units.
“I think that we need to consider our entire portfolio,” says de Vries. “We haven’t been able to make as much headwind in the housing crisis as we need to and we’re going to need to double and triple-down on the types of municipal assets that we look to leverage to deliver housing on.”
Last week, the province announced new housing targets for cities, with the goal of Saanich adding 4610 new units.
- Province set targets of combined 10K housing units for three South Island municipalities
- Missing middle changes aim to make building housing easier in Victoria
Raj Sahota is a lawyer and developer, as well as the chair of the development committee for Pacifica Housing. He thinks that golf courses belong outside of city settings.
“These are essentially dead zones for much of the year and for much of the population and it’s only a small privileged few who benefit from this,” he says.
Sahota adds park space should be developed to serve more of the public, including kids. He also feels First Nations should be involved in any redevelopment of this scale.
“It was historically taken for nothing, and very few taxes are paid because it’s assessed at around $8 million, so you’ve got this ongoing benefit for a select few for which market value has not been paid on an annual basis via taxation.”
Sahota also notes the environmental impacts of maintaining urban courses. “They’re tremendously resource-intensive,” he says. “They’re terrible for the environment.”
Golfers echo a different sentiment. Adrian Holland plays Cedar Hill regularly.
“Obviously there is a housing problem,” he says. “But leave the golf courses alone.”