A nonprofit called YIGBY (‘Yes in God’s Backyard’) wants to convert unused church land into affordable housing. A new California law will make it even easier.
The following is excerpted from Fast Company.
On a drive to work in San Diego a few years ago, Harvey Vaughn, the pastor at Bethel African Methodist Church, listened to a story on the radio about the city’s massive housing shortage. Thousands of new units needed to be built each year just to keep up. Meanwhile, the homelessness crisis was growing.
Vaughn started thinking about the church’s own property—and how it could potentially be repurposed for housing. “I went to my congregation and said, ‘We need to be a part of the solution. We can help solve this. We can’t house everyone, but we can house some people,’” he says.
This month, [Bethel African Methodist Church of San Diego] broke ground on a 26-unit apartment building that will provide permanent supportive housing for veterans and seniors. The project is one of the first of its kind in California. But many more are likely to follow, thanks to a new state law designed to make it easier for religious institutions and nonprofit colleges to turn extra space into low-income housing.
Until now, zoning has been a challenge. Bethel AME happened to have a duplex on its land, so it was already zoned for housing; all it needed were building permits to take the old building down and start construction. But most other churches faced more complex permitting issues until the law changed.