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Vancity targets affordable housing as a catalyst for social change

Capital Regional District

About this story

Through his own hard work and commitment, Robert Brown has built a career in the Vancouver real estate market that spans more than 35 years. But when asked to describe how his latest venture was formed, he laughs and says “it was all Vancity’s fault.”

There’s plenty of truth in that. As part of our long-standing focus on affordable housing, Vancity worked with Robert to establish Catalyst Community Developments Society, a BC-based not-for-profit whose mission is to leverage real estate assets to create positive social change. In October 2015 Catalyst got the go ahead to build 49 below-market rental units at Dockside Green, the master-planned sustainable community in Victoria that is managed by a subsidiary of Vancity.

“There was a gap in the market for not-for-profit real estate developers,” says Robert. “We identified a need for an entity with real estate development expertise and equity to invest in projects that are about more than just making money.”

These goals fit perfectly with those of Dockside Green, which was set up in part to develop a sustainable neighbourhood that revolved around a triple bottom line approach. Catalyst’s new affordable rental units will add to the homes that have already been built at Dockside Green.

“Because the rental development at Dockside Green is below market-rate, it will allow families that would otherwise be frozen out to find housing they can afford,” says Kira Gerwing, the Vancity manager of community investment who worked with Robert to set up Catalyst.

The project is backed by Vancity financing. Potential occupants will go through income eligibility testing to ensure the units will genuinely meet the urgent housing needs of people and families with annual incomes approximately between $29,500 and $60,000.


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