Bishop Matthews, head of East Oakland, California’s Genesis Worship Center, has long appreciated the idea of home as instrumental to his spiritual mission. He mortgaged his own home twice to afford his congregation’s current home on Ritchie Street, a complex that included a parking lot, sanctuary and classroom, all to support his congregant’s various ministries and community efforts.
Matthews’s successful effort to build affordable housing on church grounds is an early example of a wave of similar projects breaking ground at faith-based institutions across the country. These efforts are being aided by a growing number of supportive institutions, which serve to guide churches through the complex process of creating affordable housing.
Faith-based communities have traditionally played a role “at the forefront of providing affordable housing to their congregants,” says Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California Policy Director Pedro Galvao. He points to Mercy Housing, a religious-based nonprofit housing developer. For churches with shrinking congregations and excess property, affordable housing serves not only their mission, but also themselves.
“We’ve seen a lot of population shifts in the Bay Area, and many communities that used to have large congregations have lost them,” says Galvao. “Lots of churches are land-rich and cash-poor, but also interested in sticking around and serving their communities. That’s the primary reason why so many congregations are attracted to this concept. It’s a win-win on multiple fronts.”
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