Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update March 4, 2024

Developing Houses of Worship into Affordable Housing 

St. Vincent de Paul Church’s campus in Corning, New York is being redeveloped into a 45-unit apartment complex featuring 37 senior apartments, eight workforce housing apartments, and a daycare center. The nonprofit organization developing the site is still waiting on the necessary funding to begin the project. 

The average congregation size has gone from 137 to 65 members over the past two decades. With the pandemic exacerbating already declining attendance, many houses of faith have shuttered or consolidated their buildings. In 2019, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (now Council Member Brewer) formed the Religious Facilities Task Force, which brought stakeholders together to discuss how these facilities could be put to use as affordable housing or for non-profits. This Task Force resulted in an Action Book with resources for religious congregations looking to keep their congregation together while allowing for development and means to produce income. 

St. Lucy’s Church in Jersey City, NJ is developing a 444-unit residential building on the church site. (Credit: MVMK Architecture)

The Affordable Housing Decarbonization Hub, built by Rocky Mountain Institute, Housing Partnership Network, and Enterprise Community Partners, is a digital space that provides tools and information from the basics of understanding decarbonization to finding and accessing financial resources for people working in the multifamily housing development space.

Housing Legislation

The Faith Based Affordable Housing Act, which Bricks and Mortals has endorsed, is being put forward in New York State. The Act empowers religious organizations to develop mixed-income and 100% affordable housing on their land across New York. 

The coalition is hosting a Faith-Based Affordable Housing Act Rally on March 5th in Albany to raise awareness of the bill and get more legislators on board.

Chinatown residents rally outside Manhattan Civil Court in favor of protecting affordable rents, April 19, 2023. Credit: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Last week we talked about tenant advocates in Albany who are pushing for a universal version of the  “good cause” eviction bill. A new policy brief, published by the Furman Center at New York University, warns that the proposal could extend rent regulation to free market apartments and will have unintended consequences that could have negative repercussions for tenants, especially in buildings with only a few units. The state budget deadline is now less than a month away. 

This webinar, How to Build a YIMBY/Tenant Activist Bridge, delves into how tenant organizers can work with YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) groups and find common ground.

Historic Houses of Worship

Abyssinian Baptist Church and Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church are two prominent Black churches in Harlem, New York City. Mother Zion, founded in 1796, is the oldest Black Church in New York state and became instrumental in helping people escape slavery in the South before the 13th Amendment was ratified. Abyssinian Baptist Church, founded in the early 19th century, was established by free Black Americans and Ethiopian merchants as responses to racial discrimination in the church.  Both churches played crucial roles in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad. 

Churches, like Abyssinian Baptist Church and Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, are facing the challenges of shrinking congregations, lack of funding, and gentrification. Pastor Byrd at Mother Zion urges new residents in Harlem to be active in supporting these historic Black churches to ensure they stay open and thriving. 

Abyssinian Baptist Church Photo from

A historic church in Washington, D.C. is preserved as a sacred space through Sacred Spaces Conservancy. Third Baptist Church, dating back to 1857 and recognized for its architectural and historical significance, has decided to continue its congregation in Prince George's County, Maryland. The Church of the Advent, founded in 2007 and previously meeting in rented spaces, will establish permanent roots in the Shaw neighborhood with the acquisition of the Third Baptist Church building. This preservation effort is noteworthy amidst a decline in the number of houses of worship in the nation's capital. Sacred Spaces Conservancy, in collaboration with the churches, is facilitating the transition and preserving the historic sacred building. 

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