Tag Archives: affordable housing

Unlikely Connections: Korean’s Learn from Japanese about Affordable Housing

28 Oct

With Christian missions we can bring a gospel of peace simply by building meaningful relationships with ethnic churches and local community development organizations.

I had the honor of giving four presentations on affordable housing to ReconciliAsian, a network of Korean pastors in LA dedicated to peacemaking in the Korean community. Speaking with these Korean pastors was a Christ centered experience. The group was so fully engaged I could feel the presence of Christ at work as I was speaking.

When Sue Park, co-director of ReconciliAsian, asked what I would like to speak on during their recent Justice & Peacemaking School on October 7th & 8th. Having spoken to them twice before on a theology of land and housing and various models of how churches across the nation have built affordable housing, I wondered if the Korean pastors were ready to actually consider building affordable housing on their church properties (for example on their large parking lots). If so, then the next step would be to experience and see affordable housing firsthand. I suggested that Sue contact the Little Tokyo Service Center, a Japanese community development organization. Considering the painful history between Japanese and Koreans this tour and learning experience was itself a step towards reconciliation.

Even though the Little Tokyo Service Center made it clear that they were not religiously affiliated, it was clear to all of us at the end of the tour they were doing God’s work. We toured their first affordable housing property built 35 years ago with 100 units. Originally the city was planning on purchasing this property for expansion of municipal facilities and had given eviction notices to all the residents. Because the Service Center had relationships with the tenants they worked with them to become advocates and the city decided not to expand, giving the Service Center the building. This building was a stunning monument to God’s beauty in how it was redeveloped. Since then, they have developed 25 properties. When the Service Center develops in Little Tokyo they already know their community, but to be sustainable elsewhere, like Korea town or Filipino town, they build local teams and equip them in the development process, even dividing their development fee with them. Among developers this is highly unusual and demonstrates aspects of how Jesus empowered others and how the early church shared property.

I began this blog with the idea that we “bring” the gospel to the community. In reality, God is already at work redeeming and restoring all things. I feel so grateful to be able to participate in this process with amazing groups like the Little Tokyo Service Center and ReconciliAsian.

Learn more about ReconciliAsian or the Little Tokyo Service Center.

Aljazeera Features how to be Downwardly Mobile for Jesus

14 Oct

I just returned from this year’s Christian Community Development Conference where over 3,000 attended. This year we met in Raleigh, NC. I feel so honored to be part of a national network of followers of Christ committed to Reconciliation, Redistribution and Relocation–the three “R”s that are the core of CCDA. This article that appeared on the front page of Aljazeera explains well some of the long term ramifications of developing under-resourced communities. Investing in a low income community can attract higher income neighbors pushing up the housing costs. This year I helped coordinate a Housing Symposium and an Action Tank–which looked at policies to help prevent housing displacement. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this amazing article.

Mathew Loftus holds a meeting of New Song Community Church's mental health group in his house after Sunday service.

Meet Matthew Loftus. “He doesn’t fit into the typical narratives about changing American communities. On one hand, recent housing policy has encouraged integrated suburbs by helping low-income families access communities of opportunity with more jobs, less crime and better schools. When integration moves the other way — into poor urban neighborhoods — it often tips over into gentrification as upscale amenities arrive, taxes and rents rise and longtime residents get priced out.”

Read the rest of Downwardly mobile for Jesus

Photo credit: Brooks Kraft for Al Jazeera America

Churches Can Initiate the First Step to Ending Homelessness by Counting

14 Oct

Pasadena is a model in many ways, with a host of volunteers conducting yearly homeless counts which provides hard data that has allowed the city and other non-profits to apply for funding and housing vouchers.

If a city has homeless and they haven’t yet conducted a count, this is the first step to ending homelessness. The Census Bureau itself does not require homeless counts and cities can often deny that they have homeless residents; this is where the Church can play a pivotal role. The book of Chronicles as well as other chapters throughout the Bible provide detailed lists of people by name recorded for all eternity. Churches can make visible the often invisible by initiating and participating in a count. Churches can contact Urban Initiatives to learn how homeless counts should be conducted and can play a significant role in the first step to ending homelessness.

Contact The Office of Urban Initiatives at Fuller Seminary

The city of Pasadena has done an excellent job of providing a significant level of services and housing for the homeless community thanks to Bill Huang, Director of Housing & Career Services, and Joe Colletti, Executive Director, of Urban Initiatives. The article below by Lauren Gold describes Pasadena’s 2014 homeless count and the significant role of Fuller Seminary.

“Homeless Count Helps Provide Data for Services” by Lauren Gold, reporter at Pasadena Star-News

Photo Credit: James Carbone for the Pasadena Star News


House Bill Would Cut Assistance to Low-Income Renters

31 May

House Bill Would Cut Assistance to Low-Income Renters Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for 2015. This bill is bad news for hundreds of thousands of people who already struggle with housing costs.

An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the bill “makes disproportionately deep cuts in housing assistance for low-income families” and “would stall recent progress in reducing homelessness.” If the bill passes, families in poverty will have an even harder time affording a place to live.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The House bill provides $35 billion for HUD, an amount that appears at first blush to be a $2.1 billion increase over 2014. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that receipts from Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance and Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA, or Ginnie Mae) mortgage guarantee programs — which are credited to the HUD budget against program funding levels — will decline by nearly $3 billion from 2014 to 2015, which results in the bill’s significantly reducing the overall level of funding for HUD programs and operations. In an apples-to-apples comparison of funding (not counting these receipts, which CBO estimates will total $9.7 billion in 2015), the House bill provides $44.7 billion in new funding for HUD programs in 2015 — or $740 million less than the $45.5 billion Congress allocated for 2014.[2] And the bill takes the majority of this $740 million out of programs for low-income families and individuals.

The House bill’s disproportionate reductions in these programs will mean less rental assistance, and greater hardships, for low-income families. Specifically, the House bill would:

  • Risk locking in the loss of more than 70,000 Housing Choice Vouchers cut in 2013 due to sequestration. In 2014, Congress provided enough funding to restore about half of the more than 70,000 vouchers cut in 2013 as a result of sequestration and to renew close to 2.15 million housing vouchers overall. But the new House bill fails to renew all of these vouchers in 2015. The bill also cuts funding for the administrative expenses that local housing agencies incur in operating housing voucher programs by $150 million while failing to include any of a widely supported set of changes to streamline program administration, increase efficiency, and help agencies cut costs, such as by allowing them to reduce the frequency of income checks for residents on fixed incomes such as poor elderly individuals living on modest Social Security checks.
  • Stall recent progress on reducing homelessness. The bill would freeze funding for homeless assistance grants at the 2014 level, rejecting the President’s 2015 budget request for a $301 million increase to develop 37,000 new units of permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities who have been homeless for extended periods. The numbers of so-called “chronically” homeless people have fallen by 16 percent since 2010, according to HUD, and the additional units of supportive housing are needed to achieve the worthy goal of eliminating chronic homelessness by 2016. While the House bill does contain $75 million for approximately 10,000 new housing vouchers for homeless veterans, the bill does not provide sufficient funds to renew all of the housing vouchers that Congress funded in 2014, as just noted, which include more than 60,000 vouchers targeted to homeless veterans that Congress has funded in prior years. The failure to renew all housing vouchers now in use means that fewer low-income families and individuals would receive any rental assistance, which likely would result in some increase in homelessness.
  • Deepen the underfunding of public housing. The House bill would cut funding for public housing by $165 million below the 2014 level, even before adjusting for inflation, despite the fact that the 2014 level itself was well below what HUD metrics show public housing agencies need to operate public housing developments and meet pressing repair needs. The cuts would increase the risk that living conditions for a number of the 1 million households living in public housing, most of which consist of seniors or people with disabilities, will deteriorate. The House bill also omits an important Administration proposal to expand the Rental Assistance Demonstration, a promising initiative that enables agencies to respond to the shortage of funding for repairs by leveraging private investment to renovate public housing.
  • Reduce funding for new affordable housing and impose deep cuts in other areas across the HUD budget. The bill would cut funding for the HOME Private Investment Partnerships program, which helps states and localities rehabilitate or build new affordable rental housing and assist low-income homeowners, by $300 million — or 30 percent — below the 2014 level. The bill also contains: a $40 million, or 36 percent, cut in lead-based paint hazard reduction grants; a $27 million (8 percent) reduction in Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) grants; and a $20 million (30 percent) cut in grants in support of fair housing enforcement activities.

Read the full article on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website.

From Poverty to Possibility, One Family at a Time – Part Two

25 Apr
Young residents of Jubilee Housing

Young residents of Jubilee Housing

This guest post is by Renise Walker, Director of Resident Life at Jubilee Housing in Washington, DC. In Part One, Renise described how a new initiative, Jubilee Life, is helping families turn their lives around. Here, she shares more details about how the program works.

Jubilee believes that offering a continuum of support from birth through college and career will bring about transformation for children and their families. Research indicates that 90% of brain development occurs by age five, making early education a crucial stage of intervention in changing life outcomes.

Jubilee Youth Services, an out-of-school time program for students in grades K-12, engages children and youth during the hours that they are most susceptible to gang and drug activity. Over the last five years, 100% of program participants enrolled in the teen center have continued on to college.

The Jubilee-to-College scholarship, a four-year renewable scholarship for any Jubilee resident planning to go to college, makes the high cost of college attainable, opening up a pathway to new opportunities for a student and her family.

By offering long-term supports that touch on the most critical stages of childhood development, Jubilee Life intends to create lasting change for individuals and their families, rather than putting a band-aid on the symptoms of poverty.

Jubilee will measure and document effectiveness through the use of both qualitative and quantitative measures. The most powerful results will be conveyed through the stories of transformation we’ve witnessed or gathered from participants. Additionally, quantitative measures will track the growth of individuals over time through the use of self-reports, individual assessments, and observations of increased positive interactions among children and their caregivers.

Most importantly, Jubilee Life is more than a set of programs and services – it is a community of belonging. When Asia DeCosta enrolled in Jubilee Youth Services, she connected with a supportive group of peers and Jubilee staff that helped her to grow.

Asia is gradually making progress. Today, she is seen as a positive role model among her peers, her teachers report significant improvement in her behavior, and she is passing all of her classes.

Jubilee Life is ushering in new ways of collaborating across organizations to ensure that each individual who engages with Jubilee connects with caring neighbors and staff to help nurture and nourish them on their journey towards a better life. For families like Angela and Asia’s and hundreds of others, Jubilee is changing the odds, moving families from poverty to new possibilities.

The story of Jubilee Housing is on pages 69-78 of Making Housing Happen. You can read an excerpt here, and get the book from Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Photo: Courtesy of Jubilee Housing

From Poverty to Possibility, One Family at a Time

24 Apr

JubileeHousing_51This guest post by Renise Walker, Director of Resident Life at Jubilee Housing in Washington, DC, originally appeared on Investing in What Works for America’s Communities.

Before moving into Jubilee Housing, Angela Marable and her daughter, Asia DeCosta, moved constantly. They slept on the couches of family members and reached out to friends when their welcome wore out.

At their lowest point, Angela was sleeping on the streets, separated from her 9-year-old daughter. The instability weighed heavily on Asia, leaving her struggling academically and behaviorally.

For years, Angela wrestled with drug addiction. Although she was fighting hard to recover, she was stuck, unable to afford housing without a stable job, and unsure of how to turn her life around.

The day Angela received the key to her apartment at Jubilee Housing’s Fuller building was the first time her name was on a lease of her own. The move into the apartment was a momentous occasion, but for Angela and Asia, the journey to a better life was far from over.

For Angela’s family and the hundreds of others who have found hope, opportunity and dignity through Jubilee housing, there are no easy answers or quick fixes. Too often these families seek a different way of life, yet find themselves in a constant struggle to overcome setbacks. Despite the challenges, families can rely on the anchor of safe, affordable housing and the expanded hope that comes from stability and a sense of belonging.

Now, Jubilee Housing – long-established as a pioneer in affordable housing – is teaming up with community partners to use its expertise in housing as a platform to provide additional opportunities and hope to hundreds more families like Angela and Asia. The collaboration is called Jubilee Life.

When fully developed, Jubilee Life will provide 299 affordable apartment homes with access to a range of support and services in community spaces just downstairs from the families who need this helping hand.

Through a partnership with Life Assets and Capitol Area Asset Builders, residents will have access to a community credit union and economic empowerment center. In addition, two remodeled townhouses will provide transitional housing and intensive services for men and women returning to the community from previous incarceration. Jubilee’s newest building, the Maycroft, will serve as the hub for family services by providing an additional 64 affordable apartments and new community spaces that will house a range of services for both parents and their children.

A partnership with Jubilee Jumpstart, an early childhood development center, Jubilee Life will provide on-site early childhood education for up to 54 children six weeks to five years old, and a new teen services center will offer space for 30 youth to engage in out-of-school time programming.

In addition, a state-of-the-art Family Resource Center will offer home visitations, parenting support groups and classes, assistance navigating school options, one-on-one coaching, and personal and economic empowerment programming.

The story of Jubilee Housing is on pages 69-78 of Making Housing Happen. You can read an excerpt here, and get the book from Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Photo: Courtesy of Jubilee Housing

Housing Justice course at Denver Seminary, June 22-July 2, 8:30-12, 2015

11 Apr

Denver Seminary offers a unique Master of Arts degree in Justice and Mission, with courses on social issues like immigration, health justice—and now, housing justice. Housing Justice is a new course that will be offered June 22-July 2, 2015. I’m thrilled to be teaching this two-week intensive at my alma mater, and invite you to join us.

This course is open to anyone, not just Denver Seminary students. Note the registration dates below—however, the registrar needs a count on the number of students by May 10. International students will need to be register by March 10. So if you or someone you know is interested, please enroll soon.

Course Description

Housing Justice: Theological and Practical Foundations (JM 645): Develops a theological and practical understanding of how housing justice is part of God’s mission. It provides a comprehensive look at ways to house communities in light of biblical land use laws and the just and fair distribution of land and housing. Case studies are examined, which includes how churches and Gospel-driven visionaries are addressing the housing crisis, creating affordable housing, and transforming people and communities. Interactive assignments and site visits provide first-hand experience to engage with affordable housing developers and best practice models. Two hours.

To further pique your interest, here’s the reading list for the class – some really powerful and inspiring works!

Required Reading
  • A Decent Home: Planning, Building, and Preserving Affordable Housing, Allan Mallach
  • Making Housing Happen: Faith-based Affordable Housing Models, 2nd Edition, Jill Suzanne Shook
  • Streets of Hope: The Fall and Rise of an Urban Neighborhood, Holly Sklar
  • The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics, Ched Myers (available on Ched’s website)
  • The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith, 2nd Edition, Walter Brueggemann
Suggested Reading
  • A Theology As Big As the City, Ray Bakke
  • A Theology of the Built Environment: Justice, Empowerment, Redemption, Timothy J. Gorringe
  • City of God, City of Satan: A Biblical Theology of the Urban Church, Robert C. Linthicum
  • Real Hope in Chicago: The Incredible Story of How the Gospel Is Transforming a Chicago Neighborhood, Wayne Gordon
  • Roots for Radicals: Organizing for Power, Action, and Justice, by Ed Chambers
  • Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith, Eric O. Jacobsen
  • The Theology of the Hammer, Millard Fuller
  • Theirs Is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America, Robert Lupton

A link to the course and all books are available through the Denver Seminary bookstore website under Summer 2014.

Course Registration

1) If you’d like to take the course for earned credit, you’ll need to apply for admission. You can apply as a non-degree student, which is a much quicker process than for degree applicants. For more information, contact: admissions@denverseminary.edu. The cost is $540 per credit hour and please register as soon as possible.

2) For auditing, there are two options:

a. Audit with record: You’ll receive a transcript of your course audit. This requires a brief application process – contact admissions@denverseminary.edu. The cost is $175 per credit hour.

b. Audit without record: No transcript will be provided. This option is just $35 but applicants need to meet one of the following criteria:

    • Denver Seminary graduate
    • Mentor of a current student or of the student’s spouse
    • Spouse of a currently enrolled student
    • Full-time employees of Denver Seminary and their spouses/children
    • Denver Seminary board members
    • Individuals ages 65+ years
    • Full-time Christian employees of non-profit Christian organizations

To audit without record, contact the registrar’s office (registrar@denverseminary.edu) and apply at least a month before the course begins. Seating is limited to 10% of the class enrollment and is first come, first served, so apply early.

Please feel free to share this information with anyone who might be interested, especially those in the Denver area. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at jill@makinghousinghappen.net. I hope to see you in June!

Intentional Neighboring, Transformed Neighborhoods – Part Four

11 Apr

This post (the final in a series on Charis Community Housing) discusses some of the challenges of revitalization – and the results that make it worthwhile. (Part One relates how the ministry began. Part Two looks at Charis’ philosophy and methods, and Part Three describes how vacant properties are turned into attractive homes.)

New owners who purchased a Charis Community Housing renovated home.

New owners who purchased a Charis Community Housing renovated home.

In addition to affordable housing, economic development is an important part of revitalizing a community. Residents also need places to buy food, and other essential services such as public transportation. But it can be challenging to bring markets and other businesses into an area seen as “low income.”

“You need to understand the financial realities of bringing a supermarket to an area where discretionary income is not high,” explains Jim Wehner, Charis’ executive director. Much of a market’s profit is not from food but “extras” such as paper goods and magazines, which low-income residents may not easily afford.

In the East Lake Community, the grocery chain Publix had to be talked into opening a branch. But today, over 12 years later, the store is doing well – a testament to the successful development efforts by Tom Cousins, Charis, and others in partnership with residents.

Ultimately, once homes are fixed up and occupied, the residents themselves bring most of the revitalization, notes Jim. They build a sense of community, look out for one another, and band together to address issues affecting them.

A recent example is a two-block stretch of 12 houses in South Atlanta. Eighteen months ago, just three were occupied. The vacant homes had been totally stripped of electrical wiring, plumbing fixtures, anything of value – leaving them open to drug deals and other crimes. Charis rehabbed three homes as affordable housing and three as market rate; two investors also bought homes (one as a Section 8 rental and one at market rate).

Charis is rehabbing damaged vacant properties into attractive homes that are revitalizing South Atlanta streets.

Charis is rehabbing damaged vacant properties into attractive homes that are revitalizing South Atlanta streets.

Now 11 of the 12 homes have families. “Everyone knows everyone, and there’s very little crime,” says Jim. “It doesn’t mean everything’s peachy, but the street has been transformed.”

For homeowners like Tracy and Mary Hancock, living in such a transformed neighborhood is a “dream come true.” Several years ago, the couple bought a house in Ormewood Park – one of the first communities where Charis worked.

The path wasn’t easy, Tracy and Mary admit. Often, after working all day, they felt like skipping their evening homeownership classes. With ongoing encouragement from Charis staff members (who’d call to remind them before each class), they stuck it out. Now, they’re both so glad they did – and in fact, they’d like to see more classes in the future.

The Hancocks love the economic and ethnic diversity of Ormewood Park. They’ve become active members of the neighborhood, helping with the community garden, cleanup days, and other activities. And Charis, they say, is the “goldmine” that has allowed them to “own a piece of the earth” in the “best part” of Atlanta.


The story of how FCS Urban Ministries and Charis began is featured on pages 81-86 of Making Housing Happen. You can read an excerpt of the chapter here, and purchase the book from Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Intentional Neighboring, Transformed Neighborhoods

28 Mar
Jacklyn Walker and Sebrina Sims (5)

Mrs. Jacklyn Walker (center) with her daughter Sebrina Sims (right), a Charis homeowner, and her granddaughter. Born and raised in South Atlanta, Mrs. Walker has been intentionally neighboring there for many years.


Making Housing Happen exists because of Bob Lupton.

Bob is the founder of FCS Urban Ministries, and I had heard him tell a certain story so many times, I practically had it memorized. It was the story of his role in turning the Atlanta Stockade — formerly a notorious prison – into GlenCastle: 67 beautiful and affordable loft apartments.

Finally, at a Christian Community Development Association conference, I asked Bob if this story had ever been published. He said it hadn’t. “If I put together a book highlighting all the ways that faith-based groups are building affordable housing,” I said, “would you write up this story as a chapter?”

The rest is history, and Bob’s story appears on pages 81-86 of Making Housing Happen – one of many inspiring examples. (You can read an excerpt of the chapter here, or purchase the book here.)

Interior and Exterior (23)

The story of GlenCastle — transformed from a notorious former prison into beautiful apartments — was the inspiration for the book Making Housing Happen: Faith-based Affordable Housing Models.

GlenCastle was just the start of FCS’ housing ministry. Charis Community Housing works hand-in-hand with FCS as part of the organization’s overall community development efforts. According to Jim Wehner, who joined Charis as executive director in 2008, FCS got its start in the Grant Park area of Atlanta. Bob Lupton moved there in the early 1980s, working with young men in the juvenile detention system as part of Youth for Christ.

Relocating into the community and being a friend and mentor, Bob was doing “community development” before it really became a formal practice, Jim notes. “Bob’s work was much more on the ground, and it drew people into the vision.”

Relationships are still at the heart of FCS and Charis, which get to know one neighborhood at a time. Once FCS identifies an area, four to six individuals or families (staff members and community chaplains) are recruited to move into the neighborhood and to look for long-time residents who already are “living with purpose” there.

The FCS families are encouraged to listen and learn from these residents and to join them in intentionally neighboring the community. “Together, they become part of its fabric and work toward strengthening the neighborhood,” explains Christy Taylor, assistant director of community development. Meanwhile, Charis staff work on finding properties that can be transformed into affordable homes, and help residents empower themselves to address challenges.

Part 2 will explain more about how Charis works.

Tiny Houses Help Address Nation’s Housing Problem

11 Mar


(AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

“MADISON, Wis. (AP) — While tiny houses have been attractive for those wanting to downsize or simplify their lives for financial or environmental reasons, there’s another population benefiting from the small-dwelling movement: the homeless.”–Carrie Antlfinger

Want to learn more? Here is the link to the full article http://bigstory.ap.org/article/tiny-houses-help-address-nations-homeless-problem

Thank you, Mary Girard, for suggesting this article and for the great work that you are doing to provide homes for the homeless.

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