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Faith-based housing

‘This is how you serve your community’: Oakland churches get grant to put housing on their land

on September 30, 2022

The Bay Area Local Initiatives Support Corp., a community development nonprofit based in Oakland, announced on Tuesday that it has received a $500,000 grant from Wells Fargo to help churches develop affordable housing units on their properties.

The grant will be used for LISC’s Faith and Housing program, which centers on faith-based organizations serving communities of color. The Faith and Housing program, which trains organization leaders, enrolled its first cohort in 2020 and takes two years to complete. The program guides organizations through the process of evaluating land, creating a development plan, identifying developers to partner with, and helping faith leaders make informed decisions about the future of their land. It entails comprehensive workshops, web training and technical assistance.

“Everything is relationships,” LISC Bay Area Executive Director Cindy Wu said at the event, which was held at United Lutheran Church. “You can look at it as transactional or you can look at it like, this is a community. This is how you serve your community.” 

Faith-based housing
LISC Bay Area Executive Director Cindy Wu and LISC Bay Area program officer Tia Hicks hold a $500,000 check from Wells Fargo. (Shannon Faulise)

Since 2019, two cohorts of 20 faith-based organization leaders from Alameda County have successfully graduated from the program, resulting in 600 housing units currently in development across the Bay Area. One of the buildings, Genesis Worship Center in East Oakland, is complete and apartments have been leased as transitional housing for 20 adults.

“The thoughtfulness of the curriculum to pair consultants to the community, it’s not cookie-cutter,” said Carla Dartis, executive director of the Movement Strategy Center and a 2021 cohort program graduate. “This is a wonderful time for us to bring our seniors, young people and families the dignity we all deserve in housing.” 

City Council member Treva Reid, who attended the event along with council members Ben Bartlett and Nikki Fortunato Bas, echoed Wu’s sentiments and expressed appreciation that financial institutions like Wells Fargo are stepping up. 

“We’re seeing buildings come in parts of the city that haven’t seen a lot of development,” Reid said. “They’re investing in us —  in real people, in real lives.”  

Faith-based housing
City Council member Treva Reid speaks at the LISC Bay Area Faith & Housing celebration. (Shannon Faulise)

Religious land is especially prime for housing development. According to a 2020 report from UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, there are over 1,000 potentially developable acres of religious land in Alameda County that could be used for housing. Because faith-based institutions already serve vulnerable populations, extending their services to include housing provides more than just homes: it provides community, fights against generational poverty, and gives unused land a purpose. 

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