Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update February 26, 2024

Preservation of Houses of Worship 

Faith-based organizations, nonprofits, and mutual aid groups are working diligently to keep houses of worship running. 

St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky is a historic church - the building was once part of the Underground Railroad. The upper level of the church needs over half a million dollars to complete repairs on the nearly destroyed upper level. Through a grant from the National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, this church and 30 other churches across the country will have the funds to repair and preserve these buildings. 

Yardley’s AME Church in Yardley, Pennsylvania, one of the churches receiving a grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Photo credit: Shirley Lee Corsey

Community support in west Kentucky helped Locust Grove Baptist Church regain their property, after it was claimed by a local Foundation due to lack of upkeep. This historic church is the oldest Black church in Lyon County and is now under renovation as community members came together to restore the building. A church in North Texas, designated as a historic site by the Texas Historical Commission, that was founded by formerly enslaved people in 1884 has been closed for years. But one family’s purchase of the property brings it closer to reopening as they have plans to restore the building and construct an outdoor pavilion. 

The Nonprofit organization, Peaceprints of WNY, held out hope for more than a decade that they could save the 115-year-old church building in Buffalo and convert it into housing. The long-vacant building became a safety hazard after a hole in the roof damaged the supporting walls, and is now scheduled to be demolished.

Affordable Housing Policy 

Houses of worship across the US are facing challenges due to declining congregations and deteriorating properties. With estimates suggesting up to 100,000 emptying religious buildings, the push to repurpose these spaces, particularly for affordable housing projects to address the national housing gap, is important now more than ever. 

The historic All Saints Church campus is situated in Midtown Atlanta adjacent to Norfolk Southern’s new campus. Photo from Urban Land.

There's a growing recognition of the potential for repurposing houses of worship to serve both religious and community needs with YIGBY (Yes In God’s Backyard) movements and city legislation cropping up in San Diego, Atlanta, San Antonio, and Seattle. The State of California passed the Affordable Housing on Faith Lands Act last year which allows faith-based institutions and non-profit colleges to build affordable housing on lands they own. Similarly, The Faith Based Affordable Housing Act, which Bricks and Mortals has endorsed, is being put forward in New York State. In Arizona, faith leaders are pushing their own "Yes in God's backyard” bill. 

"None of our churches have the resources to solve the crisis of affordable housing and homelessness… But what we do have in many cases is property," Bishop Jennifer Reddall of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona said at a press conference.

Valley Interfaith Project members discuss housing legislation on Feb. 15. Photo: Jessica Boehm/Axios

Tenant advocates in Albany are pushing for a universal version of the  “good cause” eviction bill that would protect tenants statewide, rebuffing any compromise that would exclude certain renters. Last year, there was talk of a compromise version applying only to upstate municipalities that opted in. Despite pushback, State Senator Julia Salazar, the bill's sponsor, is adamant about maintaining its integrity. Efforts to address housing struggles continue through legal challenges and opposition from landlords, particularly in upstate municipalities.

Plans for an all-electric affordable housing project in the South Bronx are moving forward. The project, named the Powerhouse Apartments, will convert a city-owned parking lot into a 90-unit, fully-electric affordable housing development. Powerhouse Apartments falls under Mayor Eric Adams’ “24 in 24” plan to develop 24 affordable housing projects on public land this year to ultimately reach over 12,000 affordable apartments developed.

Top: 351 Powers Avenue as it appears in the present day. Image courtesy of HPD
Bottom: Rendering of Powerhouse Apartments courtesy of STAT Architecture PC

Upcoming Events in March

Join us for these upcoming events next month! 

Local Law 97: New Guidance for Houses of Faith, 3/5
Virtual Panel 

At this online event will be discussing the latest updates and guidance for Houses of Faith regarding Local Law 97. Join us as we delve into the implications and requirements of this important legislation. Whether you're a member of a church, synagogue, mosque, or any other place of worship, this event is designed to provide you with valuable insights and information. Don't miss out on this opportunity to stay informed and prepared. Register now to secure your spot!

Faith-Based Affordable Housing Summit, 3/13

The Mayor's Working Group for Faith-Based Affordable Housing and Community Development, Bricks and Mortals, and The Center for Faith and Community Partnerships - along with many fascinating panelists - for an exciting event focused on tackling the critical issue of affordable housing on faith properties.

The Faith-Based Affordable Housing Summit will take place at the Riverside Church in New York, NY, USA. This in-person gathering will bring together faith leaders, housing experts, and community members to discuss innovative solutions and share best practices.

Don't miss this opportunity to connect, learn, and collaborate with like-minded individuals who are passionate about creating affordable housing options for all. 

Register now.

If you enjoy these weekly updates, please consider becoming a Bricks and Mortals member or making a contribution so we can continue to provide this and resources like it.

Sign up to join our mailing list and get these every week!

Looking to preserve your space through a variety of creative strategies?