Churches in cities are increasingly taking an active role in helping residents and members buy homes in their vicinity, reports the Christian Science Monitor (May 23).
The new involvement has as much to do with self-preservation as serving the community, writes Mark Sappenfield. “Years of blight and crime have taken a toll on the size and vitality of some urban congregations, as residents have fled to the suburbs. Yet for most churches, the work is also seen as a natural extension of their reason for being: to lift the communities they serve.”
The hands-on church activism in housing is one of the “untold stories of the past decade’s home ownership explosion.” The trend can be seen across the country. In San Francisco, a cooperative of five churches are teaming up to construct 20 town houses where a parking lot used to be. In Miami, St. Agnes Episcopal Church is putting up 85 single family homes. In New York, pastor and former U.S. Rep Floyd Flake has made a name for himself for his ambitious home building projects.
Less heralded programs involve congregations holding home-buying workshops, or helping to pool members’ resources and form cooperatives to attract lenders. Many of the churches active in these programs are located in the most blighted urban areas, as it is clear to them that unless the neighborhood is revitalized, the congregation stands little chance of survival. Lenders, developers and faith-based groups are convening in Los Angeles this fall in a national conference to examine how to better serve this growing niche.