NHPF-Authored Articles & Industry Reports

There are other groups to bring into the process as well. First, faith organizations should 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. But, in many cases, according to Richard Smith, builder and architect, “If a building is in disrepair and is not landmarked, the cost of restoring may be impractical and the church will have to come down and be rebuilt to better suit the overall development.” Some communities also face the prospect of unwanted gentrification and may view new construction as part of that, 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. 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.

A faith leader may start the process with one vision and come to realize a very different one, at the end.

7. Reevaluate and collaborate to determine the most realistic and beneficial vision for the property

Once a partnership has gone through the rigors of valuation, costs and community input, it’s time to take a hard look at what kind of property will yield the best all-around results. Often there have been changes in law or zoning in the years since a church began the path towards building. These changes can affect a final decision. 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. While making these decisions it’s important to factor in the long-range implications of each. Will your congregants be able to live in the units? Will the construction help boost a flagging congregation? How will the tax structure benefit or harm the property 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.

8. Communicate, communicate, communicate

With approvals and financing in hand and contractors and architects signed up, it’s time to communicate with all your stakeholders, honestly and often about the building process and how it will affect their lives. Time, expense and other factors must be communicated as well. Those seeking to move into the planned housing must be informed about the all-important qualifiers and lottery selection process. It’s also important during this phase to implement community and media relations. This includes everything from inviting congregants and local civic leaders to status meetings to issuing press updates to local media.

Putting Faith in Housing: A Primer for All Partners


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