Church Got Lots of Empty Land? Build Housing.
On Monday, St. Martin's Church at North Capitol and T Streets NE will officially open its new residential development, The Summit at St. Martin's, with 178 units of affordable housing, 51 of them reserved for formerly homeless people who graduated from transitional housing programs. St. Martin's couldn't have done it without $11 million in low income tax credit financing secured by Enterprise Community Partners, a non-profit that helps channel investment capital into affordable housing projects.
It's not the only house of worship that Enterprise has helped build housing. There's Israel Baptist Church, on Rhode Island Avenue NE, which is working to build a mixed-use facility on some of its empty land. There's Emory United Methodist Church, which got Maureen Dowd all worried about historic Fort Stevens. And Matthews Memorial Terrace on Martin Luther King Avenue SE, which broke ground a couple weeks ago on 99 apartments. Four years ago, Enterprise started its Faith-Based Development Initiative, which actively reaches out to religious institutions–they've got land, and Enterprise can find money to make buildings happen.
Over the years, Enterprise VP David Bowers says they've been in contact with around 75 churches in D.C. and the surrounding counties. At least 20 of them, he says, are now working towards putting their property to use. The problem can be a certain disjuncture between religious institutions and the speed of money they need to do things.
"I always tell folks that people in the development community think on a quarterly timeline," Bowers says. "People in the faith community tend to think through a timeline of eternity. The sense of urgency can be a little different."
The religious institution many people would like to do something with its vacant land, of course, is Shiloh Baptist Church in Shaw. Shiloh "broke ground" on its Victory Village complex last month, but the funding still hasn't been locked down, and Councilmember Jack Evans this week executed a rather spectacular reversal in withdrawing a proposed tax break after community members raised a ruckus.
Bowers says they made a presentation to Shiloh's leadership, but they weren't interested.