BC Housing CEO to retire amid murders, violence against homeless, complex problems

·3 min read

BURNABY, B.C. — The head of BC Housing announced his retirement Tuesday, saying he no longer has confidence he can solve the complex problems facing the Crown agency.

In a letter posted on BC Housing’s website, CEO Shayne Ramsay says he has spent sleepless nights thinking about the recent murders of homeless and formerly homeless people in Langley, a vulnerable woman who was lit on fire in Vancouver and his own recent encounter with angry residents.

Ramsay's statement says he was threatened with violence last week after speaking in favour of a housing initiative in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood.

"I had to be escorted to a private elevator for my safety," says Ramsay, who was not available for comment Tuesday. "Security at the city have since advised that after reviewing the video footage, they believe the swarming and threatened punch amounted to assault. This time it was angry words and a fist, next time it could be worse."

Ramsay says while one community faces almost certain prospects of poverty, poor health, violence and premature death, other communities are unwilling to provide a welcome space that could save lives.

"These incidents are not isolated, nor are they the only incidents that have caused me to lay awake at night," he says. "From the Interior to the west side, doubtless small but vocal groups of people are increasingly angry and increasingly volatile."

Ramsay says a police shooting in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside over the weekend near a homeless encampment sealed his decision.

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

A 52-year-old man was shot and wounded and a Vancouver police officer suffered injuries after a man allegedly assaulted an officer with a weapon.

Ramsay, who turned 61 last month, says his last day will be Sept. 6.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says Ramsay's more than two decades of dedication and housing advocacy deserve recognition.

"BC Housing’s vastly increased mandate combined with unprecedented housing demand brought on by COVID-19, the toxic drug crisis, and decades of underinvestment meant Shayne Ramsay’s work was more challenging than ever before," says Kennedy in a statement.

Through it all, he maintained his focus on helping those in most need, the statement says.

Former housing minister David Eby announced a restructuring of the Crown corporation's board of directors last month after the release of an independent, government commissioned review of BC Housing.

The Ernst and Young review cited inadequate oversight for decisions and spending, and unclear roles.

"The review was initiated by the B.C. government in 2021 to ensure that BC Housing can deliver its expanded budget and mandate in consideration of government’s historic $7-billion investment in affordable housing over ten years and the rapid growth of the Crown corporation," Eby said in a statement.

Eby, who is seeking the NDP leadership following the retirement announcement by Premier John Horgan, has made housing one of his top priorities as a minister and he has pledged to make it one of his top leadership campaign issues.

He has said the government is poised to introduce legislation this fall to limit the final permit approval powers municipal government's have over housing development proposals in their communities.

Current Housing Minister Murray Rankin was not immediately available for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2022.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Shayne Ramsay's last name.

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