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Rights + Justice

BC Housing CEO Steps Down, Citing Violence

The organization was the subject of a recent critical review. Shayne Ramsay headed the Crown corp for two decades.

Jen St. Denis 2 Aug

Jen St. Denis is The Tyee’s Downtown Eastside reporter. Find her on Twitter @JenStDen.

BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay announced today he is retiring because of violence in the Downtown Eastside and recent hostility towards a new supportive housing project in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood.

Ramsay, 61, has been head of the Crown corporation, which has an operating budget of $2.3 billion, since 2000.

“I think the shooting on Hastings Street, surrounded by the encampment and during another heat wave, finally did it for me,” Ramsay said. “I no longer have confidence I can solve the complex problems facing us at BC Housing.”

The announcement comes after an external Ernst & Young review found problems in the way BC Housing sometimes awards multimillion-dollar housing contracts with little or no documentation on why the decision was made.

After the review was made public, BC Housing’s board was quietly and suddenly replaced.

The Tyee reported Friday that BC Housing is still being investigated. The initial review identified issues that were outside the scope of Ernst & Young’s mandate which have “led to further work that is ongoing,” a government spokesperson said.

The government would not say which issues required more investigation or who is conducting the review.

In a message to BC Housing staff, Ramsay said he is stepping down because of a number of disturbing incidents in the Downtown Eastside, including near his home in a building that overlooks Vancouver’s CRAB Park.

In the message, Ramsay talks about a fatal stabbing that occurred at CRAB Park on May 7 and two disturbing incidents that occurred in the neighbourhood last week: a woman was set on fire while she sat on a sidewalk in the neighbourhood, and police shot a man on East Hastings Street this Saturday.

Ramsay said another incident also left him shaken. After speaking to Vancouver city council about a rezoning to build a new supportive housing building in Kitsilano, Ramsay said he had been “swarmed by opponents and threatened with physical violence.”

Ramsay said he also wanted to spend more time with his children and grandchildren.

BC Housing said Ramsay is not available for interviews. His resignation is effective Sept. 6.

In a statement, Kennedy Stewart, the mayor of Vancouver, said Ramsay’s work over the past 22 years “has meant thousands of people all across our province have a warm and safe place to call home.” Stewart said BC Housing’s “vastly increased mandate,” increased demand for affordable housing and the toxic drug crisis all combined to make Ramsay’s work “more challenging than ever.”

“His impact cannot be overstated and I want to thank him for his tireless advocacy,” Stewart wrote.  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice, Housing

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