Meet Peer-Daniel, the newest member of the Urban Matters team.
Peer-Daniel will be part of the community housing team working on housing & homelessness research, needs assessments, affordable housing policies and programs, and development consulting. He is driven by his desire to support communities and non-profit organizations to make better decisions and create sustainable change through research, process design and strategic stakeholder engagement.
Prior to joining UM, he gained eight years of experience in the areas of non-profit real estate development, and housing policy and homelessness, working most recently as Policy Manager for the BC Non-Profit Housing Association. At BCNPHA, he worked on guiding multi-sectoral homelessness processes with the goal of better coordination, capacity development for real-estate development to get more affordable housing built and policy templates and guides for non-profit housing providers that were free of charge and up to date of current legislation that also applied a gender and equity lens. Building on his past experience working with non-profits, and with the help of the multi-skilled Urban team, he is excited to broaden his scope of work into real estate development consulting and complex housing policy work over the next few years.
When not at work you can find Peer-Daniel woodworking, or out in the wilderness having campfires on the beach, scrambling, backcountry skiing, or winter camping.
What led you to starting this position with Urban Matters?
I started in the middle east, I lived there for three years and always planned on going back. I had never been to Canada; I had only a vague concept of where it was and came for school for my degree in Urban Planning, but also because UBC looked like they had a beach right on their doorstep. I ended up staying for the mountains and my fiancée. Once I finished planning school at UBC I started working on a contract with a small community here in Vancouver, got work and became an independent consultant myself—it was more of a happenstance than an intention.
It all started with Community planning, but I think the thing that connected all the pieces was the desire to support non-profits and communities at large to achieve goals that the private market doesn’t deliver.
Thinking about people that are not served by the private sector, which is often the role of government, I think consultants and companies can play a role in supporting those processes and really find a way to support those that are forgotten by the system. 95 % of the housing market is served by the private sector—the rental market or buying— and the 5% that is non-profit housing right now is just not enough. I am excited to move the dial on these numbers at the edge of the private and non-market sectors!
What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
Development consulting—supporting non-profit organizations throughout the housing development process—is something that I am very excited about and that I want to build more of my own practice around. In the private sector, this is usually done by a developer who is looking to maximize profit, but in the non-profit sector that means working with community groups, faith groups, and all kinds of organizations that are all in real estate to identify how they can materialize a financial return, but also materialize a Community benefit. Basically, we are supporting non-profits to maintain Community owned real estate assets and leverage their capacity to better create impact for society.
Aside from Development Consulting, I am excited for a fast-paced diverse project environment, working on a diversity of projects that challenge me and make me think differently, and doing it within budget and time. This strategic work really excites me but also practically speaking moving real projects forward—to deliver outcomes that actually help clients—so far, I’ve seen they come to us as trusted advisors, and so our input is valued and thereby has great potential for impact.
What is something that drew you towards Urban Matters over taking another opportunity?
There’s been a dogma change in planning. For the longest time there was a really strong focus on the built environment, the physical assets and the physical infrastructure, but then with Jane Jacobs and others, there’s been a surge of different perspectives on planning to look at the people that live in the city and listen to seldom heard voices and those who are often under-represented and figure out how the city ought to serve them as well. So, there is a more humanist social perspective than a physical build environment perspective, but they need to go hand in hand, so it’s exciting to see this kind of coming together between Urban Matters and Urban Systems.
The build your own career aspect and building my own pathways and opportunities that come with that. The openness to exploration and trying new things is also something that I was told Urban brings and enables—so just structures that Urban provides and can be built upon.
I come with ideas and skills and passion and I look forward to connecting with others that share those interests to come up with cool projects and create solid outcomes. That sounds cheesy, but I think as far as I’ve seen everybody is really passionate about what they do.
What makes a project memorable for you?
Matt Thomson and I worked together before we both started our jobs here on an affordable housing framework for the for the Village of Cumberland – a very small contract, but I think we both go back to that project every now and then and tell each other how much we loved it.
It was a very passionate committee, and the work was grounded in the needs of the municipality; It was just very community driven and welcoming. One of the Council committee members invited us to stay with them during project work, so instead of staying in a hotel, we decided to stay with them and then got together with some of the counselors and had beers and talked about affordable housing.
The perfect balance for me is where my passion as an individual to support and to get outcomes overlaps with the professional. When projects are smaller scale you can really see the change, which I think is a challenge oftentimes with bigger picture systems change work—the systems move so slowly that you don’t really see the impact—but you always have to remember that that change is something that happens on so many different levels. That change is what I like to see.