Greenville, SC

Churches Could be Part of the Solution to Greenville’s Affordable Housing Crisis

By Anthony SanFilippo

People looking for affordable housing in Greenville are often told they don’t have a prayer of finding it.

But if they’re looking for that prayer, maybe they should go to a church. Literally.

JustFaith Greenville, a mission-based faith organization headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky that has ministries all over the United States, has been urging churches in Greenville to give up some of their land to help build affordable housing communities.

Greenville hired a consultant in 2016 who identified a deficit of 2,500 affordable housing units. Two years later, the same consultant said that deficit had quadrupled.

The city initially set aside $2 million to start the Greenville Housing Fund. After the latest figures from the consultant came in, the city added another $1.5 million to the fund.

The fund applies to households making between $15,000 to $55,000 – which includes many people looking for “workforce housing” like teachers and first responders.

JustFaith has been urging churches to follow the model first created in the city by Augusta Heights Baptist Church back in 2010.

“Affordable housing is an issue across the country, but in order for affordable housing opportunities to be constructed, a public/private partnership is usually needed as affordable housing needs to be subsidized.”

The church sold a 2.5-acre tract of land to a developer for $570,000 that resulted in 37 affordable housing units that, over the course of the past, decade have blended nicely into the community.

In March, Just Faith Greenville held a forum at Augusta Heights Church to talk about how other faith communities could follow in the footsteps of Augusta Heights to use their resources to create affordable housing.

A project manager for the Greenville Housing Fund – a non-profit group created in 2017 to invest in affordable housing – told the Greenville News that faith communities in Greenville County own approximately 5,270 acres of land.

Allen Temple AME Church created a Community Economic Development Corporation and was responsible for the addition of 80 affordable homes in low-income communities such as Judson, Nicholtown, Sterling and Southernside.

Affordable housing is an issue across the country, but in order for affordable housing opportunities to be constructed, a public/private partnership is usually needed as affordable housing needs to be subsidized.

“Churches are usually centrally located with plenty of parking, which means they are great options for redevelopment as affordable housing projects.”

Working with TRG Communities, Grace Church had 90 affordable homes developed in the Viola Community of Greenville, which has transformed itself from a troubled community to a destination location for potential homeowners.

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church continually buys, renovates, and rebuilds homes in the church’s neighborhood to create affordable housing.

Additionally, when landlords bump up the rent, the church also assists seniors in being able to afford that rent.

St. Andrew Episcopal Church also used funds from a capital campaign to preserve 10 affordable homes in its community.

Churches are usually centrally located with plenty of parking, which means they are great options for redevelopment as affordable housing projects.

With church attendance much lower than in years past coupled with the severity of the affordability crisis, turning church land into affordable housing has proven to be a win/win for both the churches and those in need of affordable housing.

Churches are able to keep their doors open, potentially grow their faith communities, and at the same time help people find a home.

The success of these projects and others like them around the country, have piqued the interest of many major metropolitan communities as a potential solution to their ever-growing affordable housing crisis.

 


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