DC offers grant for houses of worship to host and build affordable housing

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is announcing a new idea to reach her goal of 36,000 affordable housing units by 2025: She’s asking faith-based organizations to live up to their mission and use part of their land for affordable housing development.

“It is so great to be with you and to be able to stand here as a witness to the power of the faith-based community getting involved in truly affordable housing for our residents,” said Pastor Joseph Daniels with the Emory Fellowship United Methodist Congregation, which started the affordable housing event on Thursday just a block from four churches that line Chevy Chase Circle.

His church in the Northwest D.C. neighborhood of Brightwood built an affordable housing project on its land in 2019.

“We opened the Beacon Center, which is a project of 99 units, an affordable rental housing project for residents who are being displaced from the District of Columbia,” he said.

To reach the mayor’s 2025 goal, D.C.’s interim director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, Drew Hubbard, said on Nov. 17 that the agency is issuing a million-dollar grant for houses of worship that are looking to produce housing on land they own.

“The Urban Institute estimates that faith-based institutions own approximately 450 vacant parcels in the District and can produce between 6,000 to 29,000 new homes,” Hubbard said. “They just need that little bit of help and nudge to get there.”

He said it looked at other cities that have experimented with this concept including Denver, which  turned to unused church parking lots as opportunities to produce affordable units.

“This is yet another tool in our toolbox to make sure that we produce quality, affordable units for residents, whether they’ve been here all their lives, or for five minutes, as the mayor says,” Hubbard said.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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