RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS AND USE OF THEIR CHURCH PROPERTY FOR
Prepared by Jerry Hopkins
National Capital Presbytery (NCP) has a long history of involvement with affordable housing. In 1973, National Capital Union Presbytery (a predecessor Presbytery) entered into an agreement to sell a 5-acre site previously designated for a church on Ox Road south of Fairfax City to the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority on which to build 50 units of public housing contingent upon rezoning for townhomes. After much opposition by the local neighborhood and a death threat against the minister who suggested the arrangement, the Board of Supervisors denied the application.
In the mid-1978, the Community Ministers of Fairfax County, Montgomery County, and Prince Georges County, recommended to the Presbytery that it create a non-profit housing development corporation. The Presbytery created the Robert Pierre Johnson Housing Development Corporation (RPJ). It successfully developed several small affordable housing developments. However, RPJ became independent from the Presbytery because of the difficulty the Presbytery had in finding individuals to serve on its Board. In 2010, after leadership and financial problems, RPJ was liquidated.
In 1975, Lewinsville Presbyterian Church in McLean looked at it land and decided that some of it might be used to provide senior housing for low and moderate-income individuals. Building on its land and acquiring some adjacent land, it opened Lewinsville Retirement Residence in September 1980 and expanded it 10 years ago. This senior development has 146 units. Not only does it provide affordable housing for seniors but the Lewinsville congregation provides additional services to the residents. The two share a parking lot.
In 2000, Chesterbrook Presbyterian Church (between McLean and Falls Church) closed. It had nine acres of land. Five acres behind its parking lot was undeveloped. The church wrote its “will”—what it wanted to see done with its property. It wanted the church building to be used by an immigrant congregation (the church building is now the home of the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church), but it wanted an affordable assisted living facility built on the back five acres. Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Temple Rodef Shalom, and National Capital Presbytery formed a corporation and developed a 94-unit affordable assisted living facility using the land leased at a $1 per year by National Capital Presbytery to Chesterbrook Residences, Inc.—the owner and operator of the assisted living facility.
Five years ago, Arlington Presbyterian Church was struggling to maintain its existence due to a shrinking aging congregation. It decided to work with Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing and sold its land at a reduced price which allowed APAH to begin developing a 173 unit affordable housing family apartment building which will house families with incomes of up to 60% of AMI. The whole property will become home to 173 families who, otherwise, would not have been able to afford to live in Arlington County.
Two years ago, Fairlington Presbyterian Church assessed what it might do to fully use its property. It has just entered into an arrangement with Wesley Housing Development Corporation to sell its front lawn to Wesley at a below market price enabling Wesley to develop during the next two years 75 units of affordable housing on the church campus.
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC is currently in negotiations with a developer and the city to develop both affordable housing and market rate housing along with a new church home on its current property.
The Session of Fairfax Presbyterian Church, Fairfax, Virginia in November 2017 approved the following:
Fairfax Presbyterian Church will enter into a partnership with Habitat of Northern Virginia, Homestretch, and HomeAid Northern Virginia to build on its property at 10723 Main Street, Fairfax, Virginia up to 10* homes that will provide
· homeownership opportunities initially for up to 8 families with incomes from 30% to 80% of Area Median Income (The Area Median Income is $110,300 for DC Metropolitan Area for a family of four. The team recommends that the qualifying income range be from 30% to 50% (very low income as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development) if the construction costs permit.);
· 2 homes for 30 families moving from homeless to self-sufficiency over the next 30 years;
· up to $400,000 (depending on the amount raised in the Capital Campaign) for use towards the cost of constructing the homes on the FPC property; and
· an opportunity for FPC volunteers to be involved in the Homestretch Sacred Home program in which FPC volunteers can provide aid and assistance to a family in at least one of the homes on the FPC property. (*Please note that the number of homes will be ultimately determined by the number that can be approved by the Fairfax City Council.)
If it is not feasible to build any homes on the FPC property, the backup proposal is that Fairfax Presbyterian Church enter into a partnership with Homestretch in which FPC provides up to $400,000 for Homestretch to use to pay off mortgages on homes it currently owns freeing up operating funds that will allow Homestretch to serve at least 3 more families bi-annually and an opportunity for FPC volunteers to be involved in the Homestretch Sacred Home program as outlined above.
Here are links to stories about other churches that have built or are building or planning to build affordable housing on their sites. The churches and the links to the stories are below:
The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Alexanderia, VA. http://alextimes.com/2017/11/affordable-housing-project-revitalizes-local-church/
Jill Shook has written a book--Making Housing Happen, 2nd Edition: Faith-Based Affordable Housing Models. It includes a section in which she reports a number of churches that have used their land for affordable housing. The link below will take you to that section.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Williamsbridge, Bronx, NY.
University Park United Methodist Church in North Portland, Oregon
Garden Grove United Methodist Church, Gatden Grove CA
First Baptist Church, Clarendon, VA
St. Stephens Lutheran Church, Santa Cruz, CA
IN OUR PARKING LOT
Prepared by Jerry Hopkins, Davidson, Class of 64
Background: For decades the rallying cry for many neighborhoods opposing affordable housing has been “Not in my backyard.” In fact, affordable housing advocates coined the title “NIMBY” to identify those opposed to this much needed housing.
In recent years, religious communities have partnered with advocates and developers to build affordable housing neighborhoods on their own land, on previous church land, or on property funded in part by the congregations. “In Our Parking Lot” is an effort to identify these religious communities, chronicle their efforts, and report their results in increasing the supply of affordable housing in this revolutionary manner. In Our Parking Lot will provide congregations with
· inspiration about how to creatively use their own property to address this national problem in their own neighborhoods,
· case studies of successful developments,
· insight about how to work with their members and their communities,
· unique funding sources,
· newspaper articles, brochures, FAQ’s, PR materials, timelines, lessons learned, and
· contact information for additional resources.
It is hoped that these chronicles of success will inspire and motivate congregations to use their property to serve their communities in this new way.
Communication Method: In Our Parking Lot will be solely web-based. It will start out as a page on the National Capital Presbytery (NCP) website—thepresbytery.org. It will be simple. It will contain PDF documents which can be easily read online or downloaded. In addition, it will provide links to other websites that contain information that is already online and accessible directly.
National Capital Presbytery is chosen to host these resources. Several congregations in the Presbytery have used their property for affordable housing development. Other congregations are exploring the possibility. Such a resource as In Our Parking Lot, will meet a current need of congregations seeking direction and inspiration.
One of the Presbytery’s congregations in its exploration of models for use of church land for affordable housing, discovered that other religious communities throughout the country have undertaken similar housing efforts. Availability of information of successful efforts by other congregations provides inspiration and courage to congregations seeking to take such a monumental commitment. Based upon this research, it appears that the cataloging of these experiences is something that can be of help to any religious community seeking to make affordable housing its mission. Efforts will be undertaken to assure that this webpage is shared with other religious communities.
Management: Jerry Hopkins--a retired Presbyterian minister, an affordable housing advocate since 1970, a participant in the development of two affordable housing developments in National Capital Presbytery, a Member of the Presbytery’s Administrative Commission on Church Property which reviews proposals by congregations for affordable housing—is prepared to manage the development and operation of In Our Parking Lot.
· A brief list of affordable housing developments by and through churches is compiled (see list at end of paper). In Our Parking Lot will contact each of the congregations involved, apprise each of the focus, request resources which each can share. These responses will be used to build the basic webpage.
· Each of the major national religious organizations’ mission offices will be contacted to share about the development of In Our Parking Lot. Each will be invited to link to the In Our Parking Lot webpage. In addition, each will be requested to contact their local congregations to share about the webpage, but also to discover whether there are other affordable housing developments which might be featured. In Our Parking Lot will provide sample wording for such a communication, or if provided electronic contact information, will make a direct contact with the local congregation.
· When responses are received about new efforts not included on In Our Parking Lot, a representative of In Our Parking Lot will contact this new resource to work with this congregation to gather materials that can be used on the webpage.
A Davidson Augmented Development Process: Were Davidson College to view In Our Parking Lot as a game changer endeavor in which it becomes involved, the development process can be greatly augmented. Here is how Davidson College—students and alumni might be involved.
· Send out an email to all Davidson Alumni about In Our Parking Lot and request responses from any alumni who are aware of local congregation involvement in the development of affordable housing. (An email of this nature was sent to a group of 20 Class of 64 Alumni. From this group of 20, two developments were identified and are included on the “short list.”)
· Recruit a team of students to
o Sharpen the webpage design,
o Follow-up with responses from alumni, and
o Assist congregations in preparing resources to be included on webpage.
· If interested, the team recruited may wish to work with In Our Parking Lot to complete the process described in the “Development Process” section above.
“Short List” of In Our Parking Lot Congregations
· Lewinsville Retirement Residences (Lewinsville Presbyterian Church), McLean, VA
· Chesterbrook Residences, Inc. (Lewinsville and Immanuel Presbyterian Churches and Temple Rodef Shalom) Falls Church, VA
· The Views at Clarendon (First Baptist Church of Clarendon), Clarendon, VA
· Gilliam Place (Arlington Presbyterian Church) Arlington, VA
· Westminster Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC
· Fairlington Presbyterian Church, Alexandria, VA
· Fairfax Presbyterian Church, Fairfax, VA
· The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection—Alexandria, VA West End
· St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Bronx, NY
· University Park United Methodist Church, Portland, OR
· Wesley Village, Garden Grove United Methodist Church, Garden Grove, CA.
· St. Stephens Senior Housing, St. Stephens Lutheran Church, Santa Cruz, CA
· Supportive Housing Communities (St. Peters Catholic Church and St. Peters Episcopal Church) Charlotte, NC
· Covenant Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, NC