The Local Solutions in Action series highlights strategies for expanding housing options and increasing housing affordability. The focus is on land use, zoning, financial and other regulatory tools that are available to cities, counties and towns that can be used to meet the housing needs of their residents and workforce.
There has been growing interest on the part of the faith community to become more directly involved in the production of housing affordable to lower-income individuals and families. Faith-based organizations often partner with local jurisdictions to provide services to vulnerable populations in the community, including food assistance, job and life skills training, personal and family counseling, and other services. However, faith-based organizations are increasingly looking for ways to partner with local governments and the development community to develop underutilized real estate resources into affordable housing.
A house of worship may have surplus land or underutilized density, which could be used for the construction of affordable housing. In addition to working with partners on the finance and development side, often the faith-based group will have to work with the local jurisdictions to get zoning changes and other development approvals.
In the City of Alexandria, Virginia, St. James Plaza is a 93-unit affordable project developed by AHC, Inc on land previously owned by the St. James United Methodist Church and the Bi-District Office of the Northern Virginia Methodist Church. The project, occupying approximately one-half of the church’s property, serves households earning between 40 percent and 60 percent of AMI along a future transit corridor and will host a daycare facility on the ground floor. The remainder of the property is being developed into a market-rate townhouse community. A $5.7 million loan from the City successfully leveraged over $27 million in private and public funding sources. The project is slated for completion in 2018.
A great resource for partnerships between housing organizations and faith communities is the Faith-Based Development Initiative (FBDI), a partnership of Enterprise Community Partners, Wesley Theological Seminary and other organizations. The FBDI provides financial support and technical assistance to faith-based organizations to develop or rehabilitate affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region. HUD also has a Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships which can be a good resource.
If you’re a community looking for new and innovative approaches to housing solutions, please reach out to see if we can help!