Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update: July 8, 2022

Houses of Worship and Real Estate

As congregations move on from historic houses of worship, how might they be repurposed? Oftentimes, these spaces become cultural centers or museums. A historic Massachusetts church may soon become a motorcycle museum and restaurant. A synagogue in Wales will, in the near future, be home to a cultural center highlighting the history and experiences of Welsh Jews.

Many religious organizations rely on financial portfolios that include stocks. Often, these stocks include fossil fuel companies. Recently, the Presbyterian Church USA voted to divest from five fossil fuel companies, including Exxon Mobil.

In New York City, the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which had been destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, was consecrated as a national shrine.

Houses of Faith and Mission Work

As inflation continues to raise food prices throughout the United States, demand at food banks has increased, especially as governmental support for anti-hunger measures has fallen away. Food banks, many of them run by faith-based organizations, have stepped in to fill the need.

Unfortunately, the July 4 holiday weekend saw more deadly mass shootings. In Highland Park, Illinois, a gunman killed seven at an Independence Day celebration. Highland Park has a significant Jewish community, and had recently seen several anti-Semitic incidents. The shooter at the July 4 parade had been engaging in online spaces rife with anti-Semitic content, and had attempted to enter a Highland Park synagogue in April. In the wake of the mass shooting, faith leaders provided support to their community through vigils and other forms of care.

Religion News ran an article about the Zoroastrian community, a religious group that is declining in numbers around the globe, which recently held its congress in New York.

Affordable Housing and Urban Issues

In addition to contributing to the increasing food insecurity highlighted above, inflation is exacerbating the homelessness crisis and housing insecurity. Homelessness is rising as people struggle to find affordable housing. Around 15% of renters, 8.4 million people, are behind on rent, suggesting that the eviction and homelessness crises will likely get worse before they get better. Federal, state, and local governments, even those controlled by Democrats, have been slow to offer support to those struggling to pay for housing.There are some signs that housing prices may soon stagnate or decline, a phenomenon that would disproportionately harm Black and Hispanic residents, who may end up owing more on their mortgage than their home is worth.

The New York Times was full of news that certain neighborhood typologies were "declining" or "threatened." As LGBTQ+ people find their queer-friendly neighborhoods increasingly financially unmanageable and find other neighborhoods both tolerant and less pricey, the Times reported on the United States's diminishing "gayborhoods." Additionally, across the country, neighborhoods are becoming increasingly economically segregated: Americans increasingly live in neighborhoods much richer or much poorer than the national average. The Times labeled this "the shrinking of the middle class neighborhood." As worker preferences shift away from far-flung buildings accessible only by car, the New York Times grimly covered "The Lonely Last Days in the Suburban Office Park," debating what might become of now-undesirable suburban and exurban complexes. There is some interest in the real estate industry, though primarily in urban contexts like Pittsburgh, in transforming former office structures into housing.

In Politico, Aitor Hernández-Morales looks at Vienna's social housing. In Vienna, around 60% of residents live in some form of subsidized housing, a far cry from the US's less than 4%. In Vienna, affordable housing is both prevalent and beautiful.

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