January 29, 2018

Building Blocks Podcast: A Faithful Approach to Housing Development

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Israel Manor, Inc. and Unity Health Care celebrate the grand opening of the Rev. Dr. Morris L. Shearin, Sr. Community Life Center.

Across the United States, the value of land in center cities is roughly four times that of land 10 miles away or more.  In some cities, including Washington D.C., urban land is about 30 times more valuable than surrounding land. As a result, poor and working-class residents are finding it more and more difficult to secure housing in metropolitan areas. Affordable housing advocates and developers are looking for creative solutions to address the challenges of crowded markets and rising rents for the most vulnerable communities. 

Acquiring developable land is one of the biggest barriers to affordable housing production and in this month’s episode of the Building Blocks Podcast, I explore how Enterprise is navigating the land cost challenge by introducing public and tax-exempt land into the real estate development process. Collaborating with local governments, community institutions, lenders, and local land owners, Enterprise has created development opportunities that can address shared goals to rebuild infrastructure, expand services, and meet community needs – a process that has not only benefited land owners and community lenders but also residents who are finding it increasingly difficult to locate affordable housing. 

Since 2006, David Bowers, VP and Market Leader of Enterprise’s Mid-Atlantic market, has led the Faith-Based Development Initiative, a program that provides tax-exempt, land-owning houses of worship with the financial capital and technical assistance necessary to enter the real-estate development field. The effort has provided more than $50 million in loans, grants, and equity to faith-based partners in the region working to create and preserve affordable homes. Two of the most successful projects completed include The Summit at St. Martins, a 178-unit affordable housing complex with preference for the formerly homeless, handicapped, and individuals eligible for Section 8 subsidies. Another marquee project has been the Rev. Dr. Morris L. Shearin, Sr. Life Learning Center, a 50,000-square-foot facility offering low- and moderate-income families and seniors a full-service health care center and multipurpose event space.  

Many traditional lenders and developers overlook the opportunity to partner with these groups due to a lack of development experience, despite the natural connection between housing and houses of worship in terms of building community social capital. Including community faith groups in the development process provides a full understanding of resident needs from those already engaged in community-building and service, and these groups also share a willingness to invest in neighborhoods where private capital might not typically go.   

To meet the intense need for affordable housing, Enterprise is unlocking new strategies and resources for facilitating equitable housing and community development for low and moderate-income residents. Learn more about creative solutions for productive land use on Episode 2 of Building Blocks, where we dive deeper into the Faith-Based Development Initiative and how efforts like it can be scaled for nation-wide impact.  


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