Housing crisis

How your church can help with the housing crisis

We are in a housing crisis, with rents rising faster than wages. Here’s how the church can help.

Image by naeim a from Pixabay

The housing crisis

Across the country, people with little or no income are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Landlords are increasing their prices at a rate incompatible with people’s ability to pay. Developers are not keeping pace with housing demand. All of this translates into a housing crisis that literally leaves a lot out. November 8 is World Town Planning Day (World Town Planning Day). When the housing crisis translates into a homelessness crisis, it is the Church’s responsibility to help with planning.

Many churches find themselves struggling with declining attendance and revenue. Often this means pay cuts or layoffs for church staff. Large churches with vast buildings and grounds require maintenance, but the church finds it increasingly difficult to pay for professional services. As church members age, they cannot volunteer for these labor-intensive tasks. But the funding just isn’t there to hire someone. Every community has able-bodied but low-income people who would like the opportunity to clean a church or maintain the building and grounds. Work is not a problem. The problem is that struggling churches whose numbers are dwindling simply cannot pay a fair wage. But there is a solution.

Churches with Hoarding Disorder

As the membership of older churches declines, large parts of their buildings often fall into disrepair. In their heyday of the 1950s or 1980s, churches were packed with worshippers. They built vast kitchens, stockrooms and classrooms. By the time I served churches in the 1990s through the 2010s, these properties had vacant spaces filled only with unused choir robes and Christmas pageant paraphernalia. Unable to fill their space with people, these churches begin to hoard things. Click here to read my article, “Does your church have a hoarding disorder?” A church with too much extra space becomes unhealthy because it accumulates memories of the past, rather than using its space to build the future.

Classrooms as apartments

A church I served had an extra thousand square feet. He also struggled to pay for a caretaker and a gardener. I saw a solution to the problem in the collection of unused classrooms that could easily have been converted into two small apartments. The church could have refurbished these rooms and offered them as cashless compensation to two needy but capable people in our community. In this way, the church could have provided housing for people who otherwise could not afford it. They could also have offered these people the gift of dignity, allowing them to earn a living. Even if it cost money to renovate the hall, the church would have recouped that investment in a year with the cash wages it wouldn’t have to pay for maintaining and cleaning the building and grounds. Click here read about a church that turned its classrooms into apartments for low-income people in the city where I live.

The presbytery as a boarding house

Another way churches can help solve the housing crisis is to reallocate unused parsonages, presbyteries or parsonages. Many churches still find that ministerial candidates are attracted to churches that offer housing as part of their compensation. However, just as many churches call ministers who already own homes in the community or are in a financial position to purchase a home. I have known some churches that neglect pastoral candidates who do not wish to live in parsonages. Such churches do themselves a disservice by disqualifying qualified applicants simply because the church wants exclusive control over their pastor. It’s much better for the church and the pastor when the church pays the kind of salary the pastor can afford to own. Then the church can reallocate the parsonage.

A church I served rented its parsonage for a few years between pastors. The tenants were a sweet family who could afford the payments on a large, welcoming property. I have no problem with that – beautiful families also need housing. But what if churches with large presbyteries unused by their pastors decided to use these properties to help low-income people affected by the housing crisis? Churches could transform their presbyteries into boarding houses. A four-bedroom house could provide affordable housing for four low-income people who accept shared living spaces. Click here to read about a church that has transformed its former presbytery into a boarding house for homeless people.

Do you have a large church yard? What about Tiny Homes?

Most of the rural churches I served had large properties, with acres and acres of unused grass to cut. What if the church offered its courtyard to host a small welcoming village for people experiencing homelessness? Even if the church building itself is home to no one, its courtyard could be a sanctuary for many of the most needy people in your community. Click here and here read about churches doing just that.

Address community issues

It almost goes without saying that a collective life of this nature will result in chaos or conflict on some level. As a housing case manager, I expected this. Many in the church might not be prepared to deal with the soap operas that result from this kind of life. But isn’t that what the church is called to do – help those in need and help them live a better life? To solve this problem, the church could assign a special deacon to work with families who live on church property.

How your church can help with the housing crisis

If you own a home in a middle-class, white neighborhood, you might not know that we are in a housing crisis. But if you have noticed the growing problem of homelessness, you must understand that it is directly linked to the lack of affordable housing. The church can help. Between the unused religious buildings and the unoccupied presbyteries, the church holds a lot of available real estate. If we take seriously our call to help those who are struggling, then we must loosen both the purse strings and our attachments to the concept of the holy land.

Is housing making your church ungodly?

Some people recoil from the idea of ​​people living on church property. After all, humans do all kinds of ungodly things! But allowing people to live their secular life (we all live a secular life) in the holy land could be a blessing for them. Maybe instead of worrying about the ungodly, we should consider that our churches would become even holier if we let people live there. Perhaps allowing our churches to become secular is the most sacred thing we can do.