October 23, 2012

GVHBA’s Simpson heads into sunset

Retirement puts Surrey’s de Wit in as CEO


Longtime Westcoast Homes columnist Peter Simpson is about to retire after 19 years as chief executive officer of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association — a stint during which he’s observed significant change in the industry. Chief among them, says Simpson, is the form of those places we call home.

Bob de Wit

“The biggest change in the industry during my time at GVHBA has been how the pendulum has swung from single-family homes to multi-family homes,” says Simpson, 68, who will be retiring at the end of the month. “Single-family homes comprised 80 per cent of the new-home market when I came to Vancouver. Today it is 80-per-cent multi-family homes.

“Developable land is at a premium, and expensive. Planners and builders realized they needed to use the land more efficiently, so builders built up, not out. Young buyers seem to have more realistic expectations today. Condos and townhomes are perfectly acceptable. They don’t have the give-me-a-home-where-the-buffalo-roam mentality of their predecessor property virgins 19 years ago.”

Simpson, who has been penning his Constructive Thoughts column in The Vancouver Sun since 2005, worked for 23 years as a compositor, columnist and editor with the Toronto Telegram and Toronto Sun, followed by five years as chief executive officer of the Greater Toronto Home Builders’ Association. Simpson recalls that when he came to Vancouver, sectors of the industry were experiencing turmoil.

“I arrived in Vancouver just in time to be introduced to the leaky condo issue, a dark period in this region’s housing history,” he says. “Many unsuspecting condo owners suffered emotional and financial distress, and I continue to have a great deal of empathy for those who were affected by this systemic problem.” Nineteen years ago, the GVHBA had about 250 member companies, Simpson notes. Today, it has more than 740, making it Canada’s second-largest home builders’ association.

Simpson, who has received numerous provincial, national and international housing industry distinctions, introduced such GVHBA initiatives as seminars for first-time homebuyers and homeowners contemplating renovations, as well as the Parade of Renovated Homes. “We (also) launched the Coats for Kids campaign after I noticed, on my way to work one chilly morning, that many children were not dressed for the weather,” says Simpson, who also serves on the founding board of directors of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.

“To date, our members have collected nearly 50,000 winter coats and other articles of winter clothing for distribution to needy families,” said Simpson. Replacing Simpson will be south Surrey’s Bob de Wit, 44, whom the GVHBA says in a prepared release “is well positioned to help take the association to the next level.” “Earning degrees in marketing (BBA) and economics (MA) from Simon Fraser University, de Wit has executive experience in corporate development, finance and competitive market intelligence,” the release says.

In retirement, Simpson will make his home in Eastern Canada. “As for the future, I hope it includes many years with the loves of my life — my wife, two daughters and two granddaughters. Our family has a waterfront home in Atlantic Canada. We intend to spend time sitting on the porch, watching the passing parade of boats.”

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