The idea of turning Vancouver golf courses for housing seems to have landed in a sand bunker.
Two commissioners with the board of parks and recreation who don’t agree on what to do with city-owned golf courses are united in their opposition to the suggestion of using these public spaces for housing.
Park trustees Dave Demers and Tricia Barker said that there are other options the city can explore to address the housing issue.
“It’s an absolute nonstarter,” Demers told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
For Barker, golf courses are valuable recreational assets that the city should preserve.
“I am going to do everything I can to make sure housing never happens on a golf course,” Barker told the Straight in a separate phone interview.
Through the park board, the city owns three golf courses: Langara, Fraserview, and McCleery.
The three golf courses have a combined area of 187 hectares.
Last year, Patrick Condon and Scot Hein, professor and adjunct professors, respectively, with UBC’s School of Architecture + Landscape, suggested turning half of the three city golf courses for housing.
According to Condon and Hein, the area can be used to build 20,000 non-market housing.
These are to be made up of housing co-ops, social housing, and affordable rentals for more than 60,000 people.
Condon and Hein also suggested that the remaining half should be used for park purposes.
The two UBC academics noted that the three golf courses are worth about $1.4 billion.
According to them, assembling this amount of land for housing at a market price of $1,000 per square foot would cost at least $20 billion.
Demers argued that using golf courses as a “quick fix to housing” makes no sense.
Demers noted that the city can use its zoning power and ability to grant incentives to increase density in neighbourhoods in order to accommodate growth.
In addition to the three golf courses, the City of Vancouver also owns three pitch and putt courses at Stanley, Rupert, and Queen Elizabeth parks.
In November 2019, the park board approved Demers’ motion to review the “full spectrum of realized and unrealized benefits of Park Board land currently used for golf”.
Demers’ motion noted that the number of players using the three golf courses decreased by six percent between 2013 and 2018.
“I'm asking staff to really see, and show us what we're missing out on,” Demers said in the phone interview.
Demers said these could possibly include suspending golf during winter, and opening the spaces for free park usage by the public during the season.
The park board also approved commissioner Camil Dumont’s amendment to Demers’ motion, which called for a study on alternative park and recreational uses for the Langara golf course.
Barker and her Non-Partisan Association park board colleague John Coupar voted against Demers’ motion regarding a “deep dive analysis” of the golf courses.
Like Demers, Barker believes that there places to look for housing development other than golf courses.
“We've got unused parking lots,” Barker said. “We've got lots of places where we could build housing.”
As for Demers’ motion to review the use of golf courses, Barker said that measures like this represent a “slippery slope”.
“If you start to talk about all the things you could do instead of having a golf course, then I think you can build around the idea that it might be good,” Barker said. “And I think that these places are so valuable to us. I hope we don't ever think about losing them.”
Demers, Barker, and Hein are scheduled to talk about golf courses and housing at a Vancouver forum at the SFU Harbour Centre (515 West Hastings Street) on Thursday (February 20). The event starts at 12:30 p.m.