Housing Justice: Theological and Practical Foundations

20 Sep

I am really excited about this new course I will be teaching at Denver Seminary next summer. Please consider taking the course and/or pass on this information to others who might be interested.


Housing Justice: Theological and Practical Foundations

A two-week intensive course for Denver Seminary, June 22-July 2, 8:30-12, 2015

Professor:  Dr. Jill Suzanne Shook, MA. Denver Seminary, D-Min Bakke Graduate School, author and editor of Making Housing Happen: Faith Based Affordable Housing Models (Cascade: Eugene, OR, 2012).  Jill@makinghousinghappen.com  (626) 675-1316  website: www.makinghousinghappen.com

Course Description:  This course offers a theological and practical understanding of how housing justice is part of God’s mission. It provides a comprehensive look at ways to house our communities in light of biblical land use laws, and the just and fair distribution of land and housing.  We will examine case studies of how churches and Gospel-driven visionaries are addressing the housing crisis, creating affordable housing, and thereby transforming people and communities. Interactive assignments and site visits will provide students with first-hand experiences to engage with affordable housing developers and best practice models.

This course highlights four major aspects of evangelical understanding of housing justice:

  • Theology of land and housing: The just distribution and accessibility of land and housing is not only very good news for the poor, it is a key aspect of the biblical vision of shalom.  We will examine this theology as well as the praxis of housing justice through various biblical, historical and cultural perspectives (i.e. Jubilee economics, prosperity—wealth creation, etc.). We will also critique the past 100 years of US housing experimentation and the role of the church in shaping housing policy.
  • Evangelism and redemption: When people of faith create access to housing for the most vulnerable, it can become a visible expression of love and justice, and an opportunity for the prophetic proclamation of the Gospel.  This course will foster a deeper understanding of the Gospel by considering practically how the “last will be first” in creating housing justice, as we explore how the stories of those with pain of homelessness and housing hardships can become a tool for redemption and restoration of both people and places when told to those who have the power to affect change.
  • Housing Justice: What is housing justice and why is it necessary? This course will consider the emotional and socio-economic need and scope of the housing crisis and debate issues related to the crisis: displacement, segregation, gentrification and more. What is the purpose of a home? Is housing a right? What is affordable housing? What role should the church and government play in helping to create affordable housing? Theological, historical, and cultural frameworks of rental and homeownership models will be explored: individual and shared; full, limited and no equity—including models of community land trust, co-housing, cooperative housing, and more.
  • Community Transformation: A comprehensive approach to housing justice results in community transformation. Housing justice requires thoughtful community engagement, discerning wise partnerships, and the courage to hear and follow God.  These concepts will be explored through the lens of Joseph, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jeremiah and Jesus.  Definitions of various models of community transformation will be clarified, including the following: partnerships, social services, equipping (non-formal education, including conferences and certifications), community development, advocacy, community organizing and social movements.


Denver Seminary is committed to students attaining four learning outcomes. This course most directly contributes toward the realization of the following learning outcomes:

  1. Integrated biblical and theological competence.

This course will foster a comprehensive as well as analytical mastery of the theological and biblical content that informs the missional praxis of housing justice.  It will contribute toward discernment of vocational calling, especially as affordable housing practitioners are engaged during field trips. This content will be integrated through class lectures, student presentations, viewing of two documentaries, in-class debates, the use of on-line interactive tools, the telling of personal housing stories, a field trip and discussions with personal reflection sensitive to their own theological and community context.

The student’s progress toward this mastery will be assessed by the professor’s evaluation of active participation in class discussion, individual and group presentations, five pop quizzes including in-class writing assignments on the analysis of readings, four one-page book reviews and two final theological and integrative papers.

  1. Course Goals:

At the end of this course students will:

  1. Understand land use, affordable housing practices and housing policy from biblical and theological perspectives, and be able to discuss complexities of housing justice.
  2. Articulate their own housing story with cultural sensitivity and clarity, their own theology and convictions regarding homes, land and housing and know how to help others do the same.
  3. Develop critical thinking skills in evaluating and recognizing just and fair housing models and policies, and discern what models might be economically, culturally and historically appropriate in their own community.
  4. Learn methods of housing justice praxis; the role of prayer, discernment, relational work, and if need be, partnerships; accessing of resources, including need and asset assessment tools, certifications, leadership and fund development and more.




Required reading will total 1,200 pages, which is standard for 2-hour Denver Seminary courses.


Primary textbooks:


Brueggemann, Walter. The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, MN, 2002. (150 pp)

Mallach, Alan. A Decent Home: Planning, Building and Preserving Affordable Housing, 2009 (364pp)

Medoff, Peter, and Sklar, Holly. Streets of Hope: The Fall and Rise of an Urban Neighborhood (289 pp)

Myers, Ched. Sabbath Economics (60 pp)

Shook, Jill Suzanne, editor. Making Housing Happen: Faith-Based Affordable Housing Models (MHH). Cascade Books: Eugene, OR, 2012. (269 pp)


Students desiring more intellectual rigor may replace Streets of Hope: The Fall and Rise of an Urban Neighborhood with Gorringe, T.J. A Theology of the Built Environment: Justice, Empowerment, Redemption. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, MA, 2002. (261 pp)

The following books will be available on reserve either at the library, on-line, so purchasing them is optional. We will be reading only selected excerpts from the list below (see class schedule)


Popple and Leighninger. Social Work, Social Welfare and American Society, 8th edition, Chapter 14: “Housing, Homelessness and Community Development” (a written request will for the rental or purchase of this 47 page chapter must be sent to: Allyn and Bacon, Permissions Dept, 75 Arlington St, Boston, MA 02116, or faxed to 617-848-7320)


On-line articles:

“Gentrification with Justice” by Bob Lupton: http://sites.silaspartners.com/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID323422_CHID664014_CIID2235910,00.html

Search several articles from the ShelterForce and Rooflines archives website (http://www.shelterforce.org/)

Dreier, Peter. “The phony case against rent control.” (31 pages) (http://scholar.oxy.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1364&context=uep_faculty)



Recommended optional reading of one of the following will provide extra course credit:


Bakke, Ray. A Theology Big as the City. Intervarsity Press: 1997. (207 pp)

Chambers, Edward. Roots for Radicals. Continuum: 2003. (142 pp)

Fuller, Millard. The Theology of the Hammer. Smyth and Helwys Publishing: Macon, Georgia, 1994. (151 pp)

Gordon, Wayne. Real Hope in Chicago: The Incredible Story of How the Gospel is Transforming a Chicago Neighborhood. (205 pp)

Jacobson, Eric. Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith. Part 1. Brazos Press: Grand Rapids, MI, 2006. (69 pp)

Lupton, Robert D. Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America. Harper and Row: San Francisco, CA, 1989.  (121 pp.)





  1. Timely, faithful attendance and active, appropriate participation in discussion (includes one group presentation) –15% of final course grade
  2. Five quizzes/in-class writing assignments based on readings—20%
  3. Four one-page reviews of books (1,200 words total)—15%
  4. Final integrative theological position paper (2,200 words)—25%
  5. Final integrative praxis position paper (2,200 words)—25%


Total writing requirement=18 pages (@ 300 words/page.) Denver Seminary requires 15-18 pages for a 2-hour class.


The standard Denver Seminary 100-point grading scale will be applied to each assignment and the cumulative course grade:

87-89 = B+ 77-79 = C+ 67-69 = D+
93-100 = A 83-86 = B 73-76 = C 63-66 = D 59 or below = F
90-92 = A- 80-82 = B- 70-72 = C- 60-62 = D-





Note: For written work in this class, I would prefer double-spaced papers using 11-point Times Roman front and one-inch margins, which usually means 350 words per page. Assignments can also be emailed as an attachment to jill@makinghousinghappen.com. Paper length is judged by word count, not pages. Since no extra research is required, academic format is not emphasized. However, if you do refer to other works, please footnote properly using Turabian style. Of course, plagiarism is not permitted and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law as outlined in “Policy on Academic Integrity” in the Seminary’s student handbook.


  • Timely, faithful attendance and active, appropriate participation in discussion (includes leading two group presentations on a chosen book)


  • Attendance is vital: without it, neither learning nor contributing to others’ learning can happen. Unexcused absences result in a zero participation grade for that class session.
  • Participation should be active but balanced. For those who have a lot to say (like myself) that may mean stepping back to invite others into the conversation. For those less eager to share their thoughts in groups, that may mean well-planned, intentional resolve to speak out.
  • Each of our four units will conclude with group presentations applying the theological concepts covered by the unit to one of the four contexts of injustice discussed in week two:


Students will sign up to participate in one group presentation for the entire course; detailed instructions will be made available at that time.


  1. Five quizzes/in-class writing assignments
  • Quizzes will NOT be announced in advance. They will take place randomly at the beginning of class and will cover the reading material due that day. Critical engagement with course readings is vital for everyone in our learning community—so quizzes are just one more way of providing incentive for reading well.


  • Integrative theological position paper (2200 words)


  • This paper should integrate key learnings from the material presented in the course into a coherent expression of the students’ theological stance concerning housing justice and mission. Students should use their class notes and reading analyses to distill into one document their overall “takeaways” for the course. The paper should include:
    • a summary of the main debates covered in the course.
    • an articulation and defense of the students’ positions vis a vis these debates.
    • an integration of the students’ stances into a clearly articulated holistic mission theology of housing justice.


  • Integrative missional praxis paper (2200 words)



  • This paper should reflect on the practical implications of their theological convictions (expressed in the previous paper) for their own missional praxis. The paper should highlight:
  • which concepts, debates, or convictions hold the most practical relevance for the student.
  • How the students’ theological convictions would influence missional praxis in the context










Session 13 hours Introductions, overview of syllabus, theological frameworks and housing stories 

Devotion reflection: Moses Duet. 15, and Is. 58: 6-12

The Land, Brueggemann; Making Housing Happen (MHH), Shook Ch. 2; Sabbath Economics, Myers One-page book reviews on Brueggemann and Myers due 
Session 2(3 hours)


Defining the housing problem and context: the history of housing and housing policy in the US and role of the church 

Debate: is housing a right or commodity?


Devotion reflection: Ruth and Naomi, Prov. 29:7; Is. 65:17-22

A Decent Home, Mallach, Ch. 1, 2, and 11; MHH, Ch. 1; Streets of Hope, Medoff, and Skylar Ch. 1  Define the housing problem in your community by use of Census data. 

Determine housing wage for your community; http://nlihc.org/library/wagecalc

Session 3(3 hours) Consequences of housing policy: what we can learn from other nations, review of integration paper. View: documentary Inside Job, depicting the early 21st Century financial crisis and global economic meltdown of 2008. Discuss the mortgage crisis: banking practices, Glass-Steagall Act and PICO’s response 

Devotion and reflection: Esther, Ezek. 36:33-36, Matt. 6:9-13

Social Work, Social Welfare and American Society, Ch. 14 Policy group assignments and presentations on housing policies, beginnings of integrative paper
Session 4(3 hours) Ways to make housing happen: sweat equity, rehab, and adaptive reuse. 

Devotion reflection: Ezra, Ex. 22:25, Duet 23:20, Lev.25:35-37;

Mallach, Chapters. 7 and 9; Shook, Chapters 3, 4, 5 and 8 Shelterforce and on-line search for pros and cons of   housing models in lecture http://www.shelterforce.org/
Session 53 hours Housing preservation, barriers to housing. Documentary: Battle for Brooklyn, in which residents fight to save their homes. Discussion: displacement, segregation, gentrification and the prophetic role of the church. Debate: Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) and imminent domain 

Devotion reflection: Jeremiah 29, Prov. 23:10, Micah 2

Mallach, Ch 10“Gentrification with Justice,” Lupton http://sites.silaspartners.com/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID323422_CHID664014_CIID2235910,00.html


Shelterforce and on-line search for pros and cons of   CBAs,http://www.shelterforce.org/


Review the “Myths and Facts about Affordable Housing” and “Higher Density Development”

Session 63 hours More ways to make housing happen: Tenants taking ownership, mixed use/mixed income, cooperative, cohousing, community land trust, models of neighborhood and church empowerment 

Devotion reflection: Acts 4: 31-36; Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12 and Eph.

Mallach, Chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6Shook, Chapter 6, 7, 8, 11, 12 and 13 Peruse the Community Land Trust Network. research the CLT closest to your community. 

Visit Urban Homeworks site, watch Chad Schwitters’ doodileo

Sessions 7 and 8 

6 hours, including lunch

Field Trip to:

  1. Ray Stanske’s work, Transit Oriented Development (TODs)—throughout the Metro Denver area.
  2. Larry Fullerton, President of Hope Communities, The Point—at Denver’s Five Points (Mixed use and mixed income)
  3. Denver’s Housing Department
Mallach, Ch 12, and 13  One page reflection on what was learned from the field trip. 

Streets of Hope, or Theology of the Built Environment on- page review due


Session 93 hours Community organizing, advocacy,Nehemiah Housing Strategy, intermediaries (financial resources), Smart Growth


Devotion reflection: Nehemiah, Is. 65, Zach 8:4

Shook, Ch. 14, and 15 One-page review of Mallach’s A Decent Home due
Session 103 hours Environmentally wise building materials, policy trends and debate on rent controlDevotion reflection: Jesus, Gen 1 and Rev. 21 Shook, Ch 16, 17Dreier, “The phony case for rent control” One-page review of Shook’s, Making Housing Happen due



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