The article “Transforming Empty Churches into Affordable Housing Takes More than a Leap of Faith,” published in Planning Magazine, written by Nadia Mian, PhD, lecturer and senior program director of the Ralph W. Voorhees Center for Civic Engagement and Rick Reinhard, principal of Niagara Consulting Group, takes a closer look at zoning reform, strong partnerships, and creative funding help planners and communities convert underused houses of worship into homes.
Many religious buildings have become underused or abandoned as congregations shrink, leaving behind structures that can be expensive to maintain. The article highlights several case studies from around the United States that illustrate the potential for successful conversion of religious properties into affordable housing, but also notes the challenges associated with these efforts.
One of the main obstacles to repurposing religious properties is financial feasibility. The cost of renovating a building for housing can be significant, and funding sources can be limited. The article notes that some communities have been successful in securing funding from a variety of sources, including tax credits, grants, and donations. In addition, partnerships between non-profits, local government, and private developers can help to leverage resources and expertise.
Another challenge associated with repurposing religious properties is navigating the complex legal and regulatory landscape. Religious organizations may face restrictions on how their properties can be used, and zoning and building codes may require significant modifications to the building in order to comply with regulations. The article notes that successful conversion efforts often involve close collaboration between religious organizations, developers, and local government officials to navigate these issues.
Overall, the article highlights the potential benefits of repurposing underused religious properties into affordable housing, including preserving historic buildings, providing much-needed affordable housing, and revitalizing communities. However, the challenges associated with these efforts require careful planning, collaboration, and creative problem-solving in order to be successful.