Membership Spotlight July 2021: Claire MacLean

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Intro: As CEO Claire is responsible for managing the overall operations at SHARE Society and 43 Housing Society. Together the societies serve over 22,000 people each year through a broad range of social services, including affordable housing, support to children with special needs, seniors supports, counselling & substance use services, mental health support and food bank services to the Tri-Cities communities. Claire has a background in speech language pathology, management and public service and a unique skill set and expertise working with different levels of government and service provider organizations. In this CREW Member Spotlight feature, Claire provides us with insight into how she got involved with CREW, her wealth of industry experience and tips and advice she has learnt. 

Q: Claire, thank you for being our Member Spotlight and welcome to CREW, as a new member, what drew you to join the CREW network and can you share a few things you are looking to gain being apart of this network?

I’m a big believer in teamwork and surrounding yourself with smart, passionate people.  I was really fortunate to meet Ashley Willard Bauman over the past year and to have some great discussions with her about affordable housing development.  She introduced me to the CREW Vancouver Network and I am really looking forward to meeting  and learning from more of the members now that the pandemic conditions are starting to lift. 

Q: The work you do at SHARE Society and 43 Housing Society makes such a positive impact on the Tri-Cities communities, it must be very rewarding work, what originally drew you to this sector/ company? What are the elements of your job that excite you the most?

I started my career working with adults with severe disabilities, and then as a 1:1 worker with children with autism – I went on to work in a childcare specifically designed for children with special needs, I became a speech language pathpologist and worked in hospitals, community treatment centres, and public health, and then I worked in government developing policies and programs to support families and communities.  For me it’s been an absolute priviledge to be a part of the lives of so many amazing families, children and individuals, and to work in many different communities over the decades. For me, the chance to be a part of something that makes people’s lives better, that can solve an inequity or create a new opportunity for someone – that is such a thrill. 

One of the things that excites me the most right now is the collective reckoning our society seems to be having around some key issues such as systemic racism, poverty, and climate change.  I think the COVID-19 pandemic has helped to prove to people that our lives, and our individual wellness, are completely inter-twined with one another.  And what we have seen through the course of the past 17 months is that when I take steps to support my neighbour’s well-being – their health, their safety, their personal rights and happiness – that I am actually improving my own likelihood of health and happiness also. It is my greatest hope that we can build upon the empathy and dialogue created during the pandemic to finally address some of the key issues within our communities.

Q: 43 Housing operates 288 units of social housing at 5 locations in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam to help meet the needs of the growing and diverse population, for our readers, can you help educate us on why housing projects and support like this are such a crucial part of communities?  

Affordable housing is critical to developing well-balanced, equitable and thriving communities. There has been such a lack of supply in rental, and particularly affordable rental housing, built over the past several decades in the lower mainland.  When you combine that lack of supply with a significant loss in old-stock rental units (i.e. due to redevelopment or disrepair) and massive increases in the costs of housing, you see families, seniors, newcomers, students and young people struggling to find safe and secure places to live.  By purposely building below-market rental housing, you are providing homes to your child’s teacher, to the person who served you a coffee this morning, and to the individual who will become your doctor a decade from now. 

SHARE and 43 Housing Society are committed to supporting the vulnerable members of our community, and we see every day the financial pressures being placed on those living in the lower mainland – for example, over three quarters of the people using our food bank live in market-rate housing.  Every day people in your community are making the choice between paying their rent, or putting food on the table.  And we believe that isn’t a choice anyone in our community should have to make.

The great news is that this is an issue we can solve by working together with for-profit/market housing developers.  Non-profit housing societies like 43 Housing know our communities well, we have decades of experience managing sites and supporting tenants, and we can work with multiple levels of government to unlock financing and funding grants as part of a potential partnership on a market-housing project.  Creating integrated, sustainable housing developments is something the non-profit and for-profit sectors can achieve together – it makes good business sense, and it also leads to more welcoming, successful communities!  

Q: If you were asked to give one piece of advice for how to build a successful career or achieve a challenging professional work goal (like rising to CEO) what would it be?

Find something that you are passionate about, and that feeds your joy – it’s important to have fun while you’re working hard.

Q: Outside of work, what are your hobbies/passions and what advice do you have for maintaining a good work/life balance to be able to enjoy them?

I think like many women and mothers, I am still learning how to prioritize my own self-care, so my advice would probably be to go easy on yourself! 

I get profound joy from spending time with my husband and our two young children, from getting in the water every chance I get, and from exploring our gorgeous surroundings.

Q: Once international travel opens up, where will be your first trip?

It’s so hard to choose!!!!  I think given everything we’ve been through over the past year and a half, I would love to decompress on a warm tropical beach somewhere.


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