COGIC plans to build affordable housing on church properties

The Church of God in Christ hopes to identify at least $500 million of opportunity in owner-owned real estate. COGIC churches that can be used for affordable housing or other community-beneficial developments.

The denomination would work to secure a $79 million fund to develop the identified properties. That funding can come from competitive debt and equity, not grants, COGIC executives explained Saturday.

The pastors’ and bishops’ request for a survey identifying their church’s current real estate came during a Saturday forum by the Reverend J. Drew Sheard, COGIC presiding bishop, at Holy Convocation, the denomination’s annual meeting. .

The Reverend David Bowers, vice president of Mid-Atlantic Market and senior adviser for a faith-based development initiative, spoke to COGIC leaders about the need for more affordable housing in the United States.

Currently, 20% of American renters pay more than 50% of their income for housing, he said. There are over 550,000 homeless people and 13 million people live in food deserts.

However, there is potential for new housing if churches join us, he said.

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A 2019 analysis by the Urban Institute looked at 800 vacant lots belonging to places of worship in Arlington and Fairfax, Virginia, Montgomery County, Maryland and Washington, DC. From there, they estimated that 43,000 to 109,000 new homes could be built.

“People are starting to understand that this land belongs to the religious community and there is potential for development with this land,” Bowers said. “The value you bring is not just in the land. You also have dollars. You may have connections in the city that count for something.

Building and managing affordable housing is already an important part of how COGIC members live out their Christian faith, leaders said.

In Memphis, where the denomination is headquartered, COGIC has purchased or built several affordable housing units. A 20-unit building located at Pontotoc Townhomes was inaugurated this week.

The Pontotoc Townhomes development, now up to 101 units, was built in 2002 through a partnership with First Tennessee Housing Corporation. Since then, COGIC has acquired the property in its entirety.

And in 2018, COGIC, alongside John Stanley Inc., opened the Mason Homes development with 77 units, at a cost of $12.5 million.

COGIC leaders are invited to complete an online survey of available land and opportunities by November 25. After that, the denomination will assess potential churches to participate in the development of low-income housing and other projects through the multimillion-dollar fund.

“No matter how small or small, if you have land and an interest in pursuing opportunities that may exist, you should definitely participate,” said Elder Derric Scott, president of COGIC’s Faith-Based Development Initiative.

Katherine Burgess covers county government and religion. She can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @kathsburgess.

Jerry B. Hatch