Skip to main content

Policy Changes Could Unlock Significant New Housing Potential for Faith-Based Organizations

Faith-based organizations such as churches, synagogues, and mosques can play an important role in addressing California’s housing shortfall by leveraging underutilized land that they own. A new policy brief from the Terner Center, titled Mapping the Potential and Identifying the Barriers to Faith-Based Housing Development, shows that approximately 38,800 acres of religious institutions’ land – equivalent to the size of the City of Stockton – could potentially support new housing development, including in some of the state’s highest-cost counties.

Much of the land is located in neighborhoods with lower poverty rates and greater educational, economic, and environmental amenities and, to a lesser extent, near transit. The research shows there are opportunities to support the goals of faith-based organizations as they grapple with the best use for their underutilized land and make progress towards California’s goals in building more housing, expanding access to opportunity, and reducing commute-related greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the authors urge that state and local policy action is needed to overcome the land use, financing, and capacity barriers facing faith-based organizations.

The report outlines three key policy recommendations that would put faith-based organizations in a stronger position to build on their land:

  • Revise local parking requirements and relax density limitations to allow for greater flexibility in building housing on religious-owned lands. Two pending proposals in the California legislature propose similar solutions: AB 1851 eliminates replacement parking requirements for religious organizations while SB 899 allows for all-affordable housing on both religious and medical non-profit property at a minimum density and through a by-right approval process if it meets specific requirements;
  • Improve existing financial assistance to catalyze development on underutilized land owned by faith-based institutions, particularly by creating preferences for LIHTC-funded developments on religious lands in higher-resourced neighborhoods;
  • Expand technical assistance for navigating the housing development process to specifically target the needs of faith-based institutions.

Read the full policy brief here.

Related Articles

Stretched to Capacity: The Challenges Facing California’s Homelessness Service Providers

Nonprofit organizations play a key role in providing services to people experiencing homelessness in California and many have expanded their…

Understanding CalAIM Implementation Across California

California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal—known as CalAIM—is a far-reaching, multiyear plan to transform the Medi-Cal program, which provides health insurance…

Will the Federal Government Enact Land Use Reforms in 2024? A Look at What May Lie Ahead

Author: Ben Metcalf The past several years has seen a flurry of state legislation tackling the housing crisis by overriding…

New Terner Center Resources to Aid California Jurisdictions in Calibrating Impact Fees

Local governments levy development impact fees on new housing development to help fund the expansion of public facilities and infrastructure.…