Celebrating Don Peters and the Work of CHAC


After 16 years, Don Peters and affordable housing have become almost synonymous. Originally as a member, then as the Chair of the Community Housing Action Committee (CHAC), Don has fought for maintaining and creating affordable housing on the North Shore. Now, after years on the frontline, Don is retiring from his position as Chair. Although, in true Don fashion, he will still stay on as a member of CHAC. Neither age, nor time can keep Mr. Peters from fighting the good fight.

After an extensive career as a teacher and school principal, Don retired from the school system in 2000, and eventually found CHAC by chance in the local paper. At that point, CHAC was newly formed with Donna Stewart as their Chair, who, Don says, took him under her wing. While gaining traction for a committee fighting for affordable housing was slow, they held on and after a while the phones started to ring. As Don puts it: “the game was on.”

From handing out flyers in the rain before an election to having developers calling to consult about their North Shore projects, Don has seen and helped CHAC grow from a novice program at NSCR to the de facto community planning table for affordable housing on the North Shore.

Initially knowing very little about affordable housing advocacy, Don now gets calls from people everyday who want to discuss affordable housing. Don credits CHAC’s success to the great people he’s come to work with and the fact that they stuck together through it all. NSCR Executive Director, Murray Mollard, notes Don as a master of building collaborative relationships, an integral part of what CHAC does. Whether creating new relationships or making sure he stays in contact, Don is nothing short of a master class in community connections.

Even with all their success, CHAC has had to fight through some tough times. CHAC saw its funding cut after it supported and fought for affordable housing and the people and families that were to be displaced with a new development. A highly controversial topic, it became an election issue in the municipal election of 2018, after which, CHAC was blamed for the approval of the project. An unfair and short-sited decision, CHAC continued to work with all North Shore municipalities to find better housing solutions.

Never shying away from opposition, Don’s work has created more than a little friction with many who do not find affordable housing a concern worth addressing. His diplomacy and tact, along with his willingness to call bull, have given Don a reputation that does not go unrecognized when he walks into a room. It’s safe to say, Don is leaving behind some very large shoes for his successor to fill.

Don attributes a large part of the current housing crisis to a failing by federal and provincial governments to adequately fund affordable housing starting in 1993. Looking ahead to the future of CHAC, and its goal of greater accessibility of housing in Metro Vancouver, Don wants his successor to continue to champion homelessness. Stressing the need for compassion, Don highlights how those struggling with housing are our neighbours as well. They are North Shore residents and it’s about time people respect that they need a home too. Don continues as the current CHAC representative for the North Shore Homelessness Task Force. He hopes, that “whoever comes in takes that on with a passion.”

In a major win for Don and CHAC, this last February, the District of North Vancouver voted in favour of a supportive housing project. The project brought forth massive backlash from residents near the proposed location. In the end, after five long public hearings (a first for the District of North Vancouver), it was passed by a 7 – 0 vote. Standing against the onslaught of negative voices, Don spoke during the public hearings in favour, choosing to centre his argument on compassion and how, simply put, passing the proposal was what we needed to do. Embodying the principles of CHAC, Don took on the district without fear.

Don is now 81 and believes its time for a change of voice and leadership. While he still loves what he does, the job has grown to become much bigger. Although he started with CHAC because of what he calls “a fluky career exploration,” it has grown into a passion, one that he hopes his replacement will also possess.

If anything speaks to Don’s character, it’s his insistence that CHAC be known as “more than just about [him], that’s the whole point [of the work].” Don’s compassionate, fearless, and fun-loving presence is one that NSCR will truly miss. Now, NSCR is looking for someone younger to take on the role, one who carries an understanding of the importance of diplomatic tact and the gravity of the work.

To learn more about the job of Community Housing Action Committee Chair, see the job posting or check out the employment opportunities on www.nscr.ca.