NHPF-Authored Articles & Industry Reports

Affordable Housing Finance, December 19, 2018 6 Must-Haves for Faith-Based Development Partnerships (continued)

For some, the decision to sell their land makes the most sense. For others, a fully affordable complex best meets their needs. And for still others, a hybrid will work. This may be a new mixed- use development, including condominiums and retail space, as well as market-rate units all within the same complex. A good development partner will help a congregation answer questions like: Will congregants be able to live in the units? How will the tax structure benefit or harm the co-owners? A faith leader may start the process with one vision and come to realize a very different and hopefully most beneficial one, at the end. The nation’s religious institutions have a unique opportunity to combine their inherent mission to provide for others along with property ownership, ultimately producing housing that will make a difference in people’s lives. And thoughtful, experienced developers can turn these opportunities into reality. The best faith-based housing outcomes are borne of knowledgeable, respectful, and experienced teams. Successfully assembling these joint ventures is the key to a smooth, productive process for religious institutions and their constituencies moving forward. It is our hope that developers and investors will seek out ventures with churches, mosques, synagogues, and other faith-based organizations to create successful housing through equitable partnerships that benefit the organizations, the community, and society at large.

There are other groups to bring into the process as well. Developers need to work closely with faith-based organizations to include community voices in the discussion through city council and other meetings. Some neighborhoods will likely protest if a Civil War-era church is facing demolition, for example. Some communities also view new construction as unwanted gentrification so partners need to paint a clear picture of what the construction will do to the neighborhood character and how it aims to strike a healthy balance. As well, communities need to be made aware of the day-to-day disruption that construction may bring and will want to hear what the team will do to mitigate that. Another constituency that must be factored in is the governing body of the religious institution, like the Catholic Diocese, for example. Those seeking to build affordable housing or to sell off their property must have approval from those in authority, if applicable. As well, in New York and other states, the attorney general’s office must approve all faith-based deals. Partnerships seeking to build affordable or market-rate housing should also be in touch with their local municipal department of development. These departments can help churches and synagogues with usages and rezoning often necessary to realize their vision. 6. A realistic and beneficial vision for the property Often there have been changes in law or zoning in the years since a church began the path toward building. These changes can affect a final decision.


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