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Sustainable Communities Thought Leadership

Untapped Potential Between Faith and Housing

By Tim Block, Sr. Program Director, Enterprise Community Partners

When you think of faith-based organizations (FBOs) like churches, synagogues, or temples, you probably think of how they provide spiritual connection and a sense of community for attendees. Many also provide a variety of services such as food pantries, childcare and other community resources. Houses of faith have a role to play in the stability and prosperity of the communities they serve—and there is more we can do to maximize the benefits they bring.

Many faith-based organizations own large tracts of underutilized or vacant property. In Fulton County alone, Enterprise found that 1,164 different FBOs own a combined 6,278 total acres of unutilized land. At the same time, we know that more than 1,500 affordable homes in Atlanta are lost every year to market pressures, and thousands of families pay more than they can afford in rent each month. The pieces are there: with the right mix of public and private support, houses of faith can serve their communities in a new way—developing real estate

Zion Hill Community Development Corporation (ZHCDC) is a faith-based developer, located in East Point and serving South Fulton, that serves as a great example of this potential. Formed by Zion Hill Baptist Church nearly two decades ago, ZHCDC has provided mortgage, rent, utilities and other types of emergency assistance to individuals and families experiencing housing insecurity in the area.

Aware of the growing demand for affordable housing, ZHCDC has recently entered the development business as well. Zion Hill Baptist Church is providing land to ZHCDC to build a new mixed-use, mixed-income, 100% affordable apartment complex that will house approximately 50 families. In addition to homes, the facility will include structured parking and community amenities, as well as office space for ZHCDC and other supportive services partners. 

Enterprise is providing technical assistance and grant funding to ZHCDC for this project to help move it through the development stages. ZHCDC sees this project as the first in a long-term strategy to build additional affordable housing properties.

For many congregation leaders, the idea of getting into real estate development is daunting. They have not been trained or don’t feel comfortable leading their congregation through the development process, from deciding where to build to whom they will partner with for the project. They are not connected to public and private funders with experience investing in affordable homes.

To address this concern, Enterprise operates the Faith-Based Development Initiative (FBDI), which provides real estate development assistance, legal resources, capital and training to faith organizations.  

The program, which is generously supported by JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, American Heart Association and others, walks congregations and their leaders through a step-by-step process for developing underutilized real estate assets into affordable homes and community facilities

“We work with houses of worship to help them make an informed decision regarding development,” said Meaghan Shannon Vlkovic, vice president and Southeast market leader, Enterprise Community Partners. “We help them move from grand vision to grand opening.”

Since 2006, Enterprise has directly invested more than $155 million in grants, loans and tax credit equity in support of FBDI developments nationwide. In total, FBDI partners have developed over 1,500 new affordable housing units, community facilities, and even a health clinic. 

Over the next five years in Atlanta, Enterprise aims to create a support network for Houses of Worship helping to catalyze the planning and production of more than 1,000 affordable homes.  

There is a dire need in Atlanta to create more affordable housing and protect struggling residents from being forced from their homes and communities. 

Faith-based organizations are in a unique position to help address that need, and they should explore this opportunity to support their communities in new ways. Enterprise can help explain what’s involved and shepherd faith leaders through a well-defined development process. 

As the process unfolds, Enterprise can help build connections to partners, navigate legal complexities and identify financial resources that take projects from concept to reality.

For more information, please contact Tim Block, Sr. Program Director, Enterprise Community Partners at tblock@enterprisecommunity.org.  


This is sponsored content.


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