Behind the vision: David Podmore on leadership, legacy and building community

David Podmore, OBC, has spent decades transforming Canada’s landscape and building communities with a firm commitment to affordable housing and sustainable urban development. But what truly drives the Co-Founder and Chair of Concert Properties? In this candid interview, David provides insights into his illustrious 50-year career, offering a unique perspective on the intersection of business success and community impact—the mark of a visionary leader dedicated to making a lasting difference.


What do you think are the most important qualities in a leader?

First of all, it's important to be a good listener, and that means being patient, accepting and encouraging—not to cut people off but to allow them to express their perspective. Another important quality is delegation. We’re very fortunate to have a talented team and I’ve worked very hard to learn to delegate. I believe the role of a leader is to give direction where helpful, but mainly to listen and give an opportunity for those promising people in the company to make their proposals and report on progress. We've hired an excellent team, and they are our future.

You've been involved in some real landmark projects in Vancouver, and elsewhere. Are there any that stand out?

Oh, boy, there are quite a number of projects. One of the first that comes to mind is the rental program we started with the support of the City of Vancouver. We built just under a thousand rental apartments in about two and a half years on land leased from the city. Since then, we've done variations of that model and have built over 5,000 rental homes since the early 1990s.


Collingwood Village is another example. It's a classic case of developing a large area quickly and creating affordable housing for individuals with modest incomes. It's now a beautiful and established community with almost 3,000 homes adjacent the Joyce-Collingwood Station in Vancouver.

Our residential rental building at 600 Drake Street in Vancouver that was built in the early ‘90s is also notable. The suites are between 260 and 285 square feet, with a full kitchen and bathroom, targeted to singles. As these micro-suites were the first of their kind, they were initially criticized for the small suite sizes. However, they have been a tremendous success with full occupancy and a long history of satisfied residents.

I’ve learned it’s not about the big, fancy projects, but those that are meaningful in terms of providing quality housing for people in our communities.

Outside of Concert Properties, I've had the privilege to work on other significant projects. The Vancouver Convention Centre West expansion for the 2010 Olympics was a challenge but also a success, completed on time with tremendous cooperation from the city, province and community. Similarly, the BC Place redevelopment, which included a unique retractable roof, was another major project completed for the Olympics. It was an honour to manage these projects, and I did so without compensation as a contribution to the community.

What lessons have you learned working in this industry?

One key lesson is the importance of treating people with respect. We’ve made it clear that respect is a core value at Concert Properties, and it has paid off having created a supportive team environment. Another lesson is the value of diversification. Our operations include rental homes, condominiums, seniors living communities, commercial and industrial properties and infrastructure projects. The inherent market cycles for these different types of real estate don’t always change at the same time, so diversifying our projects has provided balance. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we didn’t suffer as much as other development groups because of our diversified portfolio, demonstrating the value of staged and flexible commitments to different types of projects.

Collaboration is also crucial. Whether it’s working with municipalities, stakeholders or the community, strong partnerships have been essential to our success. Lastly, there's a need to streamline approval processes for developments to address the ongoing demand for affordable housing. We must try harder to speed up these approvals to deliver more affordable rental housing.

What motivated you to focus on developing affordable rental housing?


The catalyst for founding Concert Properties 35 years ago was the realization by the City of Vancouver that rental buildings were being torn down and replaced with condominiums, causing a loss of rental capacity. The council and the premier wanted to see properties developed as rentals that would remain rentals. The nearly 1,000 rental homes we created on leased land from the City will remain as rental housing and rent controls ensure these properties remain affordable. This drew attention to the need to build more rental housing, and governments are now looking at similar models again.

We have found that partnering is key to delivering affordable rental housing. We first find out where the need is and then consider what we can do to help meet the requirements through partnering with municipalities, provinces, federal agencies and non-profits. For example, the 170 suites of affordable rental housing we created in Coquitlam and Toronto in 2023 were a result of partnerships with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the City of Toronto’s Open Door Affordable Housing Program, the City of Coquitlam’s Affordable Housing Reserve Fund,  BC Housing and 43 Housing Society.

How do you see the future for Concert and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) principles?

ESG is very important, and we’re well-positioned to address these issues. We've recently hired a new Vice President of ESG, an individual with a strong background we will leverage to expand our efforts in this area. The banks, communities and our shareholders expect us to take ESG seriously, and we’re committed to doing a good job on that front.

You've been very active in philanthropic endeavours, especially in trades training and healthcare. What drives your passion for giving back?

I think it stems from seeing good role models around me. My father was committed to helping the community with his skills, and my business partner and company co-founder, Jack Poole, had a similar commitment. One guiding value for Jack was his belief that the community had been very good to him, and he wanted to give back as a way of thanking them. This philosophy influenced how we structured the company, which was founded with three objectives: generate returns for our pension fund owners, create jobs and support union labour and give back to the communities where we work. That third objective remains a big part of who we are.


When you look back on your career, is there a sense of legacy you'd like to leave behind?

I hope, and I have a very high level of confidence, that the company will remain focused on community involvement and won’t be shy about offering help where needed. Our employees have been exceptional about stepping forward to volunteer their time and skills, and that’s something I’m very proud of.