LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge
🎉 Runner Up

Increasing Affordable Housing On Religious Land

Idea by LA Voice

LA Voice works with faith communities and their leadership to create new affordable housing and ultimately provide a dignified home to every resident of Los Angeles County. Support for the Faith in Housing program will increase our capacity to develop affordable housing on congregational land, while simultaneously increasing economic sustainability for congregations. It will also support systemic efforts to eliminate significant barriers to housing development on church-owned land.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Housing and Homelessness

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Housing affordability in Los Angeles County had reached a critical point even before the massive financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 88% of county households across all income brackets are "cost-burdened," or spending 30-50% of income on rent or mortgage payments. Those facing housing instability, eviction, and homelessness are heavily concentrated in Black and Latino communities. The shortage of housing also stems from the lack of houses being built in recent decades, and state and regional policies now require local governments to plan for 341,000 homes that are affordable to low and very low-income people by 2030. Meanwhile, congregations across the County are sitting on land that has been underutilized as membership continues to decline. LA Voice is using this opportunity to meet some of the challenges of affordable housing production and supply and provide a source of income for congregations so that they can continue to serve the community.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

The Faith in Housing program helps congregations have affordable and permanent supportive housing on their property by identifying sites and guiding vision, site analysis and feasibility studies, and developer selection. Our strategy focuses on the development of multifamily housing from 50 to 150 units by negotiating between land-owning Faith Based Organizations and developers. In addition, the program also seeks to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), or secondary residential units between 500 and 1,200 sq ft, that are expansions or free-standing structures sharing lots with larger residences. The ADU strategy builds on new State bills that encourage this inherently low-cost housing type. Utilizing existing parsonages and parking lots to develop ADUs more expediently increases affordable housing availability. To date, the program is working closely with 22 congregations with an estimated housing yield of 1,851 units. In addition, the program has successfully identified locations for 153 units of ADUs and ADU types on 18 different land parcels. By year's end, the program's goal is to help at least five new and five existing congregations discern and/or negotiate with development partners to create affordable housing-and to have signed agreements with developers and/or congregations for 300 units of housing to include a minimum of 30 ADUs or ADU types. A minimum of 100 of the units will be part of projects serving congregations of color in South Los Angeles and Compton.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

We address the root causes of the affordable housing shortage in the county and statewide-a confluence of systemic racism, lack of sufficient production, poor policy choices, and the use of real estate as a commodity vs. a "human right" or basic need, among others. Through our network of faith-based organizations and partners, LA Voice facilitates this work with congregations, addresses zoning barriers to development on congregational land, and conducts grassroots organizing that engages community members in advocating to their government. Another strategy is combating NIMBY attitudes (ie, "Not In My Backyard," or opposition to neighborhood change) through education and testimonials from people who are impacted. Lastly, by facilitating the adoption of an overlay zone that would allow congregations to build by-right on their land, we can move Los Angeles County to remove barriers for thousands of faith-based organizations to build affordable housing on their property.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

By serving as intermediaries and advisors, LA Voice creates effective partnerships between congregations and developers, and the program has a growing list of more than 50 churches in various stages of predevelopment or discernment. We have also launched an educational cohort program for up to 20 congregations per year to engage new, viable congregations. This model enables LA Voice to prioritize sites with more favorable zoning and congregational will. Further, to address restrictive zoning laws, the program works with jurisdictions to create overlay zones that eliminate the need for site-by-site changes. As a result of our advocacy, Sierra Madre became the first city in the state to include a Religious Overlay in their adopted Housing Element draft for the Regional Housing Needs Assessment. Additionally, our work encouraged the Pasadena City Council to officially pass a zoning ordinance and approve a higher density of 36 dwelling units per acre.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 300

Indirect Impact: 2,000