Not For Profit

The Robert Brown Philosophy Manifested

In 2013, I was working with Kira Gerwing at Vancity to support their community investment strategy around community-focused development opportunities.

We noted that many non-profits were extremely talented at providing support, programs and services to the people they served. However, and not surprisingly, they lacked the experience and capacity to undertake sizable real estate developments.

For this reason, many had turned to market developers and adopted a “joint venture” approach to the development. While some of these partnerships worked, the main issue was that it invariably resulted in some or all of the land moving from non-profit ownership to the private market.

We felt it was important for community land to stay in community hands.

The Springs — Port Moody, BC

Catalyst Community Developments Society

I founded Catalyst in 2013 and led it for eight years. By the time I stepped away in 2021, Catalyst had completed eight projects, including approximately 700 below-market rental homes and 80,000 sq ft. of community and commercial space, with a further 700 homes in its development pipeline.

There was a need for an entrepreneurial non-profit society to be the developer, owner and operator of below-market rental housing and community spaces.

With this objective in mind, and with immense support from Kira Gerwing at Vancity, I founded Catalyst.

Given that we wanted to partner with non-profits and municipalities, and wanted to attract “impact” capital, we knew that this organization needed to be a non-profit. On top of that, it needed to be entrepreneurial and draw on market development experience. So, we attracted immensely talented people from these diverse backgrounds to our first Board. From there, we were able to attract highly experienced people who also had a passion for the community benefit we wanted to provide.

The highlight of my work at Catalyst was always watching people moving into their new homes that were beautiful, affordable and sustainable. Seeing how people flourish and truly engage in their community when they have a stable home is pure joy for me.

A critical component of any successful non-profit project is securing mission-driven funding and financing.

Robert works with Sacha Investments Limited which advises a US-based family office that is committed to investing substantial impact capital into affordable housing, regenerative organic agriculture and sustainable forestry in BC and Alberta. Sacha believes that we need to create a new paradigm of investment that prioritizes benefits to local communities and the environment while achieving reasonable financial returns.

bc housing

To meet our goal of providing everyone with a beautiful, stable and affordable home we need to continue to build the capacity of the non-profit community housing sector.

To support this building of capacity, Robert has joined BC Housing as a Board Commissioner. In this role, Robert brings his many years of non-market and market development experience to benefit the community housing sector to expedite the creation of more housing.

Past Work


Mixed Use – Affordable Housing

Vancouver, B.C.

Value: $41.0M (2020)

Area: 54,300 sq. ft

On the site of the Oakridge Lutheran Church, there is now a bright and colourful mixed-use, LEED Platinum building. Hannelore consists of four levels of non-profit, affordable rental housing, atop a beautiful new Church and a prominent commercial space leased to HSBC.

This truly unique, non-profit development model saw the Oakridge Lutheran Church partner with Catalyst Community Developments Society to create a stunning new church/community space with 46 affordable rental homes and a revenue-producing retail space to support affordable housing.


Affordable Rental Housing

Victoria, B.C.

Value: $12.8M (2022)

Area: 30,500 sq. ft

The developer of the world-famous sustainable community of Dockside Green was looking for a partner to develop, own and operate affordable rental housing within the project. They turned to Catalyst. Now nestled within the maturing community Madrona provides 49 homes, ranging from studios to four-bedrooms, rented on average at 50% below market. The residents get to enjoy stable, comfortable, healthy and beautifully designed homes adjacent to Downtown Victoria.


Affordable and Inclusive Rental Housing

Surrey, B.C.

Value: $16.0M (2016)

Area: 53,000 sq. ft

Robert supported Semiahmoo House Society (part of Uniti) to create and execute on a viable business plan to build a community of homes that is both affordable and inclusive. Uniti supports people with developmental disabilities and now owns a beautiful apartment building that provides 71 affordable rental homes including 20 for people with disabilities. It is a vibrant and engaged community that is a shining example of what is possible when community owned assets are developed to fulfill a clear, ambitious and compassionate vision.


Strategic Real Estate Plan


Value: N/A

Area: 122,000 sq. ft

For over 60 years Immigrant Services Society of BC has supported newcomers to Canada to settle and thrive in BC. They provide a comprehensive range of support services at 13 locations along with transitional housing at their Vancouver Welcome Centre. We worked with ISS of BC to review and analyze their extensive real estate holdings and to create a plan to guide the improvement and growth of their portfolio to enable them to deliver their inspiring Vision that “We All Thrive Together in Community”.

The Springs

Mixed-Use Community Project

Port Moody, B.C.

Value: $35.0M (2020)

Area: 71,000 sq. ft

The Springs is an exciting new mixed-use development in the heart of Port Moody, including a new church, affordable rental homes, a children’s centre and commercial space. The commercial space hosts programs, community events, offices for Kinsight and SHARE Family and Community Services, and the Tri-Cities Children’s Centre. The Springs was created by a collaborative partnership between Inlet United Church, Kinsight Community Society and Catalyst.


Affordable Rental Housing

Main St., Vancouver, B.C.

Value: $62.0M (2019)

Area: 119,000 sq. ft

Located on a full city block on Main Street at East 6th Avenue in Vancouver’s vibrant Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, Aspen residents have access to grocery stores, pharmacies, and Vancouver mainstays like Cartems Doughnuts and Our Community Bikes.

This 9-storey mixed-use building comprises 145 below market rental homes and commercial space that is home to Mid-Main Community Health Centre and Steamworks Brewing.

The Rise

Affordable Rental Housing

Penticton, B.C.

Value: $12.0M (2019)

Area: 59,000 sq. ft

Catalyst and OneSky Housing Society have created a much-needed affordable rental housing project in Downtown Penticton, close to entertainment like Landmark Cinemas and other activities such as restaurants, shops and the local Bike Barn.

The Rise provides 56 affordable rental homes (studios to three-bedroom apartments) suitable for families and individuals. A portion of the homes are designed to accommodate people with physical disabilities.


Affordable Rental Housing

Tofino, B.C.

Value: $4.5M (2021)

Area: 12,200 sq. ft

This cluster of 14 below market rental homes (one bedroom apartments to three bedroom townhomes) is nestled in the woods in the town of Tofino. It is close to local shopping, the Tofino Multi Use Path and the stunning Chesterman beach and provides critical housing for this popular community. The project was created by a partnership between Catalyst and Tofino Housing Corporation.


At the heart of the Robert Brown Philosophy is the goal to work together and contribute to making our society and planet a better place to live.

From an early age, I have sought opportunities to make a contribution.

In 1995, a group of compassionate and like-minded business people and I founded a non-profit called Canadian Business for Social Responsibility. It is still active today, supporting progressive organizations that want to align their business with their values and operate in a way that contributes positively to people, the community, and the planet.

Also, in the mid 1990s, I volunteered for a remarkable non-profit called Tradeworks Training Society. This was a construction trades training and job placement organization supporting people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

In 2007, I started as a volunteer Board member with Compassionate Eye Foundation – an enterprising non-profit which funds education, health and economic development programs in developing countries through the sale of stock photography images. Fifteen years later, it is still going strong.

I believe every human wants to make a contribution, they are just waiting to find the opportunity and to be asked!